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Genome study shines light on genetic link to height
Date:9/2/2007

It became clear nearly a century ago that many genes likely influence how tall a person grows, though little progress, if any, has followed in defining the myriad genes. Now an international research team brings light to this age-old question by pinpointing a genetic variant associated with human height the first consistent genetic link to be reported.

The findings, published in the September 2 advance online edition of Nature Genetics, stem from a large-scale effort led by scientists at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, Childrens Hospital Boston, the University of Oxford and Peninsula Medical School, Exeter. Using a new genome-wide association method, the research team searched the human genome for single letter differences in the genetic code that appear more often in tall individuals compared to shorter individuals. By analyzing DNA from nearly 35,000 people, the researchers zeroed in on a difference in the HMGA2 gene a C written in the DNA code instead of a T. Inheriting the C-containing copy of the gene often makes people taller: one copy can add about a half centimeter in height while two copies can add almost a full centimeter.

This is the first convincing result that explains how DNA can affect normal variation in human height, said co-senior author Joel Hirschhorn, an associate member of the Broad Institute, a pediatric endocrinologist at Childrens Hospital Boston, and an associate professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School. Because height is a complex trait, involving a variety of genetic and non-genetic factors, it can teach us valuable lessons about the genetic framework of other complex traits such as diabetes, cancer and other common human diseases.

In addition to being a textbook example of a complex trait, height is a common reason children are referred to medical specialists. Although short stature by itself typically does not signal cause for concern, delayed growth can sometimes reflect a serious underl
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Contact: Nicole Davis
ndavis@broad.mit.edu
617-258-0952
Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard
Source:Eurekalert

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