Sunday, November 25, 2018

Using Genomes to Predict Height

Despite new genetic paradigms, predicting height is still regarded as difficult. The height trait is a complex trait controlled by not only genes but by the environment which is a completely different topic. There are in fact many genes responsible for height in the genome sequence. Identifying these specific genetic variations causing height is a challenge. But Stephen Hsu from Michigan State University has developed an algorithm using newly available genomic sequencing data to predict height. Instead of using a genome wide assessment as others have done, Hsu and his team use a genomic prediction approach which decodes all SNPs at once rather than individually. It ultimately optimizes SNPs that are prone to affect the height trait the most.

The team used a UK Biobank that contained 500,000 genotype and phenotypic data to identify the smallest combination of SNPs responsible for height. Once they constructed an algorithm all that was needed was to test their algorithm. A regression line identified that there was a .65 correlation with actual height and predicted heights. The deviation or the error between true and estimated heights was due to only a difference of a few centimeters. This is still only the heritable portion of the height trait and the environmental aspect is still unaccounted for.

This method is only the beginning to better understanding polygenic traits. It allows scientists to focus on the genes that are most affecting the phenotype rather than giving the false impression that all genes share equal responsibility. Hopefully this knowledge can be useful in gene mutations and in gene therapy. It would be interesting to add on to this knowledge by testing other polygenic traits.



  1. I will admit that seeing the title of this post that I was skeptical that this was causation not correlation, however seeing as they only had a margin of 0.65 between experimental and theoretical gives some backing to these findings. Height is something that is present in my family but it is hard to trace seeing as my close family are mostly very short or very tall with little in between but I would be curious to see more about this study.

  2. I find it quite astonishing that scientists were able to formulate a concrete algorithm that links genomic sequencing and predicted height. An interesting extension of this research would be if scientists were able to take environmental factors into account. By adapting the algorithm, hopefully with would further improve the accuracy of predictions. This truly is the beginning of eventually unlocking the secrets behind polygenic traits and I feel as if longevity would be another polygenic trait worth investigating.

  3. Its always incredible to see how far we have come in our understanding of the human genome and what we can do to change someone. In this case, something as simple as height can be altered by optimizing an SNP. The 0.65 correlation is amazing to see and how accurate this is. Environmental factor is unaccounted for but that is understandable and may be unpredictable. Its really cool to see how these techniques could be used to predict what someone will look like in twenty years.