Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

High and mighty: first common height gene identified by researchers behind 'obesity gene' finding

04.09.2007
Whilst we all know that tall parents are more likely to have tall children, scientists have been unable to identify any common genes that make people taller than others. Now, however, scientists have identified the first gene, known as HMGA2, a common variant of which directly influences height.

The difference in height between a person carrying two copies of the variant and a person carrying no copies is just under 1cm in height, so does not on its own explain the range of heights across the population. However, the researchers believe the findings may prove important.

Previous studies have suggested that, unlike conditions such as obesity, which is caused by a mix of genetic and environmental factors – so called "nature and nurture" – 90% of normal variation in human height is due to genetic factors rather than, for example, diet. However, other than very rare gene variants that affect height in only a small number of people, no common gene variants have until now been identified.

The research was led by Dr Tim Frayling from the Peninsula Medical School, Exeter, Professor Mark McCarthy from the University of Oxford and Dr Joel Hirschhorn from the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT in Cambridge, US. Dr Frayling and Professor McCarthy were also part of a Wellcome Trust-funded study team that discovered the first common gene linked to obesity in April this year.

Using data from the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium, the largest study ever undertaken into the genetics underlying common diseases, and the Diabetes Genetics Initiative, in the US, the researchers conducted a genome-wide study of DNA samples from 5,000 people. The findings – that variations in the gene HMGA2 make some people taller than others – are published online today in the journal Nature Genetics.

Each of us carries two copies of each gene, one from our mother and one from our father. However, each copy can be a variant, or "allele" – in the case of the HMGA2 gene, a "tall" version and a "short" version. The researchers found that as many as 25% of white Europeans carried two "tall" versions of this particular gene, making them approximately 1cm taller than the 25% of people who carry two "short" versions.

"Height is a typical 'polygenic trait' – in other words, many genes contribute towards making us taller or shorter," explains Dr Frayling. "Clearly, our results do not explain why one person will be 6'5" and another only 4'10". This is just the first of many that will be found – possibly as many as several hundred."

The exact role that HMGA2 has in growth is unclear, but the researchers believe it is most likely in increased cell production. This may have implications for the development of cancer as tumours occur due to unregulated cell growth. Previous studies have shown an association between height and certain cancers: taller people are statistically more likely to be at risk from cancers, including those found in the prostate, bladder and lung.

"There appears to be a definite correlation between height and some diseases," explains Dr Mike Weedon, lead author on the study. "For example, there are associations between shortness and slightly increased risks of conditions such as heart disease. Similarly, tall people are more at risk from certain cancers and possibly osteoporosis."

Dr Frayling believes that the study has major implications for helping scientists understand how common variations in DNA in the human the genome actually affect us, especially in relation to growth and development.

"Even though improved nutrition means that each generation is getting successively taller, variation in height within a population is almost entirely influenced by our genes," says Dr Frayling. "This fact, coupled with the ease of measuring height, means that height can act as a model trait, allowing us to explore in detail the influence that the genome actually has on our general make-up, not just disease risk."

In addition to being a textbook example of a complex trait, height is a common reason children are referred to specialists. Although short stature by itself typically does not signify cause for concern, delayed growth can sometimes reflect a more serious underlying medical condition.

“By defining the genes that normally affect stature, we might someday be able to better reassure parents that their child’s height is within the range predicted by their genes, rather than a consequence of disease,” said Dr Hirschhorn from the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT.

Craig Brierley | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.wellcome.ac.uk

Further reports about: Broad Institute Condition EXPLAIN Frayling HMGA2 finding obesity variant

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht How brains surrender to sleep
23.06.2017 | IMP - Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pathologie GmbH

nachricht A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation
22.06.2017 | Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>