For decades, scientists have been in search of the common genetic factors influencing one's height and have had no luck. After studying almost 5.4 million people’s DNA, a team of geneticists have conducted the largest genome-wide association study of its kind, identifying over 12,000 height influencing genetic variants. Depending on the person’s ancestry, up to 40 percent of all variation in height can be explained by these variants typically clustering around the sections of genome associated with skeletal growth. This almost 20-year study has resulted in the discovery of the majority of genetic variation linked to height and the growing sample size can inform us about traits controlled by multiple genes.
This monumental study can one day help physicians identify deficiencies and hidden diseases in individuals who are not meeting their predicted genetic height. The current outcome of the genome-wide association studies (GWAS) demonstrates its importance in the biological basis and heritability of diseases. Together, GWAS and 23andme were able to collect data from seven times more people than in original studies. The results revealed common single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with height. These SNPs make up 40 percent of variation in height of European descent and 10 – 20 percent for those not of European ancestry. This difference is likely due to the study composition being mostly European individuals, so there is a lack of diversity in the study. Increasing the non-European population in the study could prove the study to be more accurate in its findings of genome height influencing regions. Additionally, a more diverse cohort could help determine if specific groups are more likely to have certain genetic variants. With the knowledge collected, further research can be conducted to trace the effects of individual variants on height and could reveal correlations with other common conditions influenced by multiple genes.
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