A new study, conducted on more than 250,000 subjects, has almost doubled the number of known gene regions -- including nearly 700 genes -- that influence height. The study by the international Genetic Investigation of Anthropometric Traits, or GIANT, Consortium is expected to help scientists better understand the biology of height.
The study, published in the journal Nature Genetics on Sunday, analyzed data from the genomes of 253,288 people as the scientists looked into about two million common genetic variants. From this pool, they identified 697 (in 424 gene regions) genes as being related to height, the largest number to date associated with any trait or disease.
“Height is almost completely determined by genetics, but our earlier studies were only able to explain about 10 percent of this genetic influence,” Joel Hirschhorn, leader of the GIANT Consortium and co-senior investigator on the study, said in a statement. “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.”
Many of the 697 height-related genetic variants were located near genes known to be involved in growth, but there were also plenty of surprises, the scientists said, adding that they can now explain about 20 percent of the heritability of height, up from about 12 percent before.
The scientists also found that many of the already identified genes are likely to be important regulators of skeletal growth, something that scientists had not known until now.
“Some may also be responsible for unexplained syndromes of abnormal skeletal growth in children. As you increase the sample size, you get more biology,” Hirschhorn said.