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Genes Linked to Height Also Tied to Osteoarthritis Risk

Short and tall extremes may put added pressure on joints, study suggests

FRIDAY, Jan. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Common genetic variants associated with osteoarthritis may also play a role in determining a person's height, according to a U.S.-European study.

The findings, which included an analysis of the genomes of more than 35,000 people, are exciting for a number of reasons, said study co-leader Goncalo Abecasis, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. He noted that many genes control height, but only a few are associated with osteoarthritis.

"In this case, the gene we picked also is important in osteoarthritis, and it's actually hard to find genes for osteoarthritis," Abecasis said in a prepared statement. "One of the things we were excited about is you could study (height) in many people, and once you've done that, you have a short list of genes you can then study for what they do in terms of osteoarthritis."

The findings also add to overall understanding of height.

"It is useful to know all genes responsible for height variation, so we are reassured if our baby is shorter than others because he has a collection of "short" alleles on his DNA, and not because he has something wrong, like a metabolism disorder," study co-author Serena Sanna said in a prepared statement.

The study was published online Jan. 13 in Nature Genetics.

The new study confirms observations of a link between decreased height and increased risk of osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, according to background information in a news release about the study. It's believed that both short and tall extremes of height may be associated with osteoarthritis, but for different reasons. Longer bones may place greater levels of stress on the joints, while shorter bones and/or less cartilage may make joints more susceptible to damage.

More information

The Arthritis Foundation has more about osteoarthritis.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: University of Michigan, news release, Jan. 13, 2008

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