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

urvey, and a set of tall and short European American and Polish adults assembled for studies of height. This two-pronged approach enabled co-first author Guillaume Lettre, a researcher at the Broad Institute and Childrens Hospital Boston, and his colleagues to convincingly prove that the DNA variation in HMGA2 influences height.

The genomic find, though, is not the only indication that HMGA2 affects height. Previous studies in mice and humans revealed that a handful of rare stature disorders result from severe mutations in the gene. Taken together, the findings provide strong evidence for a role for HMGA2 in height. However, the identified SNP accounts for just 0.3% of the normal variability in human stature, which means there are probably many others yet to be found. To do this, researchers will need to study even larger groups of individuals.

Unlike most other complex traits, height is something that can be easily defined and measured in very large numbers of people, said Hirschhorn. Soon the scientific community will have access to many more large-scale genomic data sets, making it feasible to identify additional genes involved in height.

While surprisingly little is known about how genes hardwire humans for growth, some initial clues have already surfaced as a result of the HMGA2 discovery. The gene is active in the first months of fetal growth and shuts off shortly before birth, suggesting it orchestrates growth-related events early in human development. Moreover, it appears to influence the overall longitudinal growth of the skeleton, as scientists found that the T-to-C change in the genes DNA sequence correlates with an increased length of both the limbs and spine in young children. HMGA2 has also been implicated in certain forms of cancer. Thus, further studies may help dissect the relationship between normal growth and the deranged growth central to cancer.


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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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