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DNA Study Of More Than 5M People Provides A Powerful Genetic Predictor For Height

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At the moment, the best way to predict a child’s height is to take the average height of their two biological parents. But with this genomic data, doctors will be able to get a better estimate.

Adult height is primarily controlled by the information contained in our DNA; children of tall parents are likely to be taller, while children of short parents tend to be shorter, although these estimates aren’t exact.

The study, which used DNA from more than 5 million people from 281 contributing studies and was published today in the journal Nature, is the largest genome-wide association study ever and fills a sizable gap in our knowledge of how genetic differences contribute to height differences.

Over a million people in the study are not European. They are from Africa, East Asia, Latin America, or South Asia.

The 12,111 variants are clustered around parts of the genome that are linked to skeletal growth. This makes them a good genetic predictor of height.

The discovered variations account for 40% of the variation in height for people of European ancestry and 10-20% for those of non-European ancestry.

Adult height is primarily controlled by the information contained in our DNA; children of tall parents likely to be taller, while children of short parents tend to be shorter, although these estimates aren’t exact.

The development of a young newborn into an adult, as well as the function of genetics in this process, has long been a complex and poorly understood area of human biology.

Before, the largest genome-wide association study that looked at height used a sample of up to 700,000 people. The sample size of the current study is about seven times larger than the sample size of the previous study.

The research, which is being conducted at a scale never before seen, offers new levels of biological detail and understanding of why people are tall or short, with heredity being linked to different specific genomic regions.

The results show that most of the genetic variations that affect height are found in just over 20% of the genome.

The study’s results could help doctors figure out what’s wrong with people who don’t grow to their genetically predicted height. This could help them find diseases or conditions that are causing them to grow slowly or hurt their health.

The study also offers a useful framework for using genome-wide analyses to pinpoint a disease’s biology and subsequently its genetic components.

Increase genomic diversity

Even while this study features a larger proportion of subjects with non-European ancestries than most others, the researchers nonetheless stress the importance of increasing diversity in genomics studies.

Genome-wide analyses don’t fully account for the rich diversity of ancestry found around the world because the majority of genetic information is from persons with European heritage.

To reach the same saturation point and reduce the disparity in prediction accuracy among populations, it is crucial to expand genome-wide investigations in populations with non-European ancestry.

Dr. Eirini Marouli, senior lecturer in computational biology at Queen Mary University of London and a co-first author of the work, said:

Co-author Dr. Eirini Marouli says that they “have accomplished a feat in studying the DNA of over 5 million people that was broadly considered impossible until recently.

Genomic studies are revolutionary and have the potential to significantly advance our understanding of many global health issues. If we can accurately depict a trait like height at the genetic level, we may then have the model to more effectively identify and treat illnesses that are influenced by genes, like schizophrenia or heart disease, for example, according to the author.

“If we can map specific parts of the genome to certain traits, it opens the door to widespread targeted, personalised treatments further down the line that could benefit people everywhere.”

Image Credit: Getty

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