It's Confirmed: You Have Parents to Thank (or Blame) for Your Height

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MONDAY, Oct. 6, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- New research confirms that you have your parents to thank for how tall or short you are.

The finding doubles the number of gene regions that influence height. That means there are now 424 gene regions, with 697 common genetic variants, that play a role in stature. That's the largest number to date linked with any one trait or disease, the researchers said.

The effort to find more genes linked to height was massive: hundreds of investigators analyzed genetic data from more than 250,000 people worldwide to pinpoint these new regions.

"Height is almost completely determined by genetics, but our earlier studies were only able to explain about 10 percent of this genetic influence," study co-senior investigator Dr. Joel Hirschhorn, of Boston Children's Hospital and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, said in a hospital news release.

"Now, by doubling the number of people in our study, we have a much more complete picture of how common genetic variants affect height -- how many of them there are and how much they contribute," he explained.

Hirschhorn is leader of the international Genetic Investigation of Anthropometric Traits (GIANT) Consortium, which conducted the study published online Oct. 5 in the journal Nature Genetics.

"We can now explain about 20 percent of the heritability of height, up from about 12 percent where we were before," co-first study author Tonu Esko, of Boston Children's Hospital, the Broad Institute and the University of Tartu in Estonia, said in the news release.

And according to co-senior investigator Peter Visscher, of the University of Queensland in Australia, "The study also narrows down the genomic regions that contain a substantial proportion of remaining variation -- to be discovered with even larger sample sizes."

Many of the 697 height-related genetic variants identified in the study are located near genes known to be associated with growth. But there were also some surprises.

"Many of the genes we identified are likely to be important regulators of skeletal growth, but were not known to be involved until now," Hirschhorn said. "Some may also be responsible for unexplained syndromes of abnormal skeletal growth in children. As you increase the sample size, you get more biology."

More information

The American Society of Human Genetics has more about genetics.