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What Makes A Person Tall? Researchers Found New Genetic Variants That Affect Human Height

Update Date: Feb 02, 2017 08:30 AM EST
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A large scale genetic study reveals the most common genetic variants that decide how tall a person will be. Some rare genes account for nearly an inch of a person's height.

The International Genetic Investigation of Anthropometric Traits (GIANT) consortium looked into the DNA of more than 700,000 people. Dr Joel Hirschhorn, professor of paediatrics and genetics at Boston Children's Hospital and member of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, said that people who carry the rare genetic variants are affected to a greater degree.

In detail, the common genetic variants affect the growth plates which are the section of the bones where growth occurs. The 83 rare variants are the ones that affect skeletal growth and can influence height by more than two centimeters, or almost 8/10 of an inch.

Hirschhorn estimates that a third of the genetic contribution to height has already been identified. Still, there are many genes that they cannot fully understand the function. He added that they may need more study on genetics and biology to know their roles.

Hirschhorn said that the identification of these new genetic variants require tremendous statistical power. He is thankful for the collaboration of GIANT with researchers at the Montreal Heart Institute, Queen Mary University, the University of Exeter, UK and other 280 research groups.

Height is a window to complex genetics. It is influenced by multiple genetic variants working together. Studying the complexity of height will give scientists a blueprint for multifactorial disorders such as diabetes and heart disease.

The information from the DNA is very significant in precision medicine as it can help in identifying which group of people will likely have a heart attack despite a healthy lifestyle.

The GIANT group is launching another large study on height which will look into the genetic variants of more than two million people.

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