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 Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute

nachricht Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>