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Medicine

Scientists Stack Up New Genes For Height 66

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the how's-the-weather-up-there dept.
An anonymous reader writes "An international team of researchers, including a number from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill schools of medicine and public health, have discovered hundreds of genes that influence human height. Their findings confirm that the combination of a large number of genes in any given individual, rather than a simple 'tall' gene or 'short' gene, helps to determine a person's stature. It also points the way to future studies exploring how these genes combine into biological pathways to impact human growth."
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Scientists Stack Up New Genes For Height

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  • "The consortium, aptly named GIANT for Genetic Investigation of ANthropometric Traits."

    -_-

  • I'll bet the first use of this information will be for herbal v14gr4 advertisements.

    • I'll bet the first use of this information will be for herbal v14gr4 advertisements.

      I bet the internet trolls will use it first.

  • I should really be worried about Gattacaish stuff instead of looking forward to gene therapies to cure us 5'6"ers of our affliction; women in clubs and bars don't look for a sense scientific morality though.

    • Maybe you should look elsewhere for women.
    • How is scientific morality any different from normal morality? If it's wrong, don't do it.

    • Learning what genes do what isn't Gattaca-ish, it's scientific progress. Gattaca-ish only occurs when you start to say that only people with certain genes can do certain jobs. And really, even in the movie the job in question was space ship pilot for crying out loud. You can bet your ass that astronauts today get screened in every way possible, up to and including analyzing their family histories (which is really just very primitive genetic screening when you get down to it), and they aren't even respons

      • Learning what genes do what isn't Gattaca-ish, it's scientific progress.

        The previous poster never said that Gattaca type things were happening now, but wrote that they should be concerned about such things, as in this makes the potential more likely. I strongly suspect they were talking about genetically engineering our offspring and the potential negative consequences; one of the movie's main themes.

    • women in clubs and bars don't look for a sense scientific morality though.

      You know, I think you may have just identified the single overriding factor that will determine humanity's destiny, at least in terms of biology.

    • women in clubs and bars don't look for a sense scientific morality though.

      Well, there's you're problem. You should try looking for ones behind, not in, bars.

      What? I have low standards. So sue me.

  • Is there any evidence of epigenetic factors [hudsonalpha.org], like mother's or father's diet before or during gestation, that influence height? Can you eat different for taller children?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jfengel (409917)

      There's lots of room for all sorts of other factors. These genes account for only 10% of the height difference:

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100929132529.htm [sciencedaily.com]

      This study wasn't designed to look for epigenetic factors. It was basically: line up a lot of people, measure 'em, and give 'em a quick gene scan. (Not a full sequencing, necessarily; it was a meta-study to get the maximum data, and they needed hundreds of thousands.) That genetic scan doesn't tell you anything epigenetic.

      The rest is

      • The really interesting thing is that if you take both parents' height, you can predict a child's final height within a narrow range (using midparental height). It is estimated that genes a responsible for about 60-80% [wikipedia.org] of the human variation in height, and yet after all the research that has been done, and the hundreds of genes found, we can only account for 10% of the human variation. This means that in addition to those hundreds, there are hundreds, if not thousands, more who have a smaller role in determi

        • The really interesting thing is that if you take both parents' height, you can predict a child's final height within a narrow range (using midparental height).

          Uh, No...

          My mother is 5'9", My father is 5'10". What test based on them would predict my height of 6'11"? (Or my two brothers at 6'5" and 6'8".) An accurate and reliable test based on parents height does not exist. And no, I do not have a pituitary disorder. (One Dr that I no longer see, sent me for those tests in order to generate more revenue; the results were all normal, my pituitary gland works properly.)

          • I just love it when you take an anecdotal case and use it to disprove a general statement.
            Midparental height can predict the range of a child's final height (with the height within that range governed by environmental variables). Of course, this range is X SD. I believe this is 2 SD, (but citation needed) and so it means that 5% of children will be outside of the predicted range - 2.5% above and 2.5% below.
            Congratulations, you are a statistical deviant; Welcome to Slashdot.

          • And one more thing:

            What test based on them would predict my height of 6'11"? (Or my two brothers at 6'5" and 6'8".)

            The neighbor test? How tall is he? :)

            • Then there's the utility meter reader or (in Yank parlance) the cable guy.

              Actually one thing I did notice at high school was that it seemed virtually all the tall kids were gluttonous milk drinkers.

          • by F'Nok (226987) *

            Apparently you've never heard of outliers.
            Your anecdote doesn't disprove basically everyone else that it holds true for.

    • by Red Flayer (890720) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @06:02PM (#33753548) Journal

      Can you eat different for taller children?

      Sure, and you probably should. Taller children require larger roasting pans, and sometimes even bigger ovens. You could instead do them on a spit over a fire, but if you need to scrunch them up on the axle of your spit (since they are taller), it's going to affect how evenly they cook.

      Oh... for taller children. My bad.

    • by mirix (1649853)

      I think so. My father's generation (born during WWII, in a fairly hard hit region) seems to average at least 6 inches shorter than the generations born in the years after, when food was ample and nutritious.

      Maybe socialism made them taller (This was pinko Yugoslavia) ;-)

      I think I recall hearing that Montenegro (also ex-yu) has the tallest avg. population in the world. Not sure how true that is, but I do notice a lot of tall people in ex-yu.

      • by Jedi Alec (258881)

        Sorry, we Dutchies are still #1 on that front I'm afraid, with the Danes coming in second. :)

    • by Lhooqtoo (876551)
      There is almost certainly an epigenetic effect. The latest buzz is that there is no genetics without epigenetics. However, the size of the effect must be less than the 80% that is attributable to genes (and yes, that figure is pretty robust). The real problem is having the data to measure the epigenetic effects from studies that have already been conducted. If the study of epigenetic factors wasn't part of the original study design, it's awfully hard to model these effects as an afterthought in a meta a
  • I don't see the GATTACA connection here, other than a knee-jerk response to any DNA discoveries. There are easier ways to determine (with high confidence, though not certainty) whether someone has genes encoding for being tall. A measuring tape, for instance.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I don't see the GATTACA connection here, other than a knee-jerk response to any DNA discoveries.

      If we know what genes encode desirable traits, that is the first step towards genetically altering offspring to have those traits... ala Gattaca. This isn't about knowing who has the genes for tallness, but about the potential of altering those genes so that people who do not have altered genes are societally disadvantaged.

      • ...people who do not have altered genes are societally disadvantaged.

        I think it would be more apt to say that those without altered genes would be physically disadvantaged. Socially speaking, the opposite may be true. Consider the fact that, historically, humans react negatively to those folks who are considered different. If gene alterations in offspring start occurring intentionally, then for quite awhile, the mass majority of people will still be natural-borns, if you will. As such, if there is any social discrimination (i.e. distinction based on gene manipulation) it w

        • I think it would be more apt to say that those without altered genes would be physically disadvantaged.

          Among men, height is the single most important characteristic for attractiveness, more so than intelligence, wealth, and physical fitness combined (both heterosexual and homosexuals attracted to men). For every inch of height, you can see a correlative increase in the average income of men. Since it is not likely not be required that people advertise that they have been genetically altered, those people who have been engineered to be taller will be at a significant advantage already. And from there it is on

          • Interesting, I'd never heard of those correlations or statistics. Do you have any references for that data? Or did it come from a text book from some old college class you took awhile back? I'd be very curious to read those studies.
  • Considering that a human's height is derived primarily from there bone dimensions (at least, I think that's the case), this would make sense. Frankly I would have been more surprised to find out that there was one master 'bone gene' that proportionally scaled all bone structures in the body.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by CarpetShark (865376)

      I would have been more surprised to find out that there was one master 'bone gene' that proportionally scaled all bone structures in the body.

      Agreed. Especially since we can see plenty of species where the scaling has happened on individual limbs. Dinosaurs' short arms, fiddler crabs' long/large single arm, kangaroos' short arms and/or big legs, giraffe necks, etc...

      Although a combination would be impressive; if there was a single scaling master gene, plus limb-/bone-leve adjustments, that would be a very

    • by rubycodez (864176)

      agreed, what we need to find though is the master boner length gene.

  • ..."genes to control human flight" and get really excited for a second?

  • Article link (Score:3, Informative)

    by gringer (252588) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @06:39PM (#33753902)

    Took me a bit of time to find, but here's the link to the actual research paper (requires nature subscription):
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature09410.html [nature.com]

    From the abstract:

    Our data explain approximately 10% of the phenotypic variation in height, and we estimate that unidentified common variants of similar effect sizes would increase this figure to approximately 16% of phenotypic variation (approximately 20% of heritable variation)

    The introduction of the paper states that "80% of the variation [for height] within a given population is estimated to be attributable to additive genetic factors, but over 40 previously published variants explain less than 5% of the variance." While this paper pushes that to 16%, it's nowhere near the limit of what can be detected.

    I find it interesting that they've got a sample size of around 100,000 individuals for this study (actually a meta-analysis of summary statistics from 46 GWAS of 133,653 individuals), but still claim a need for more individuals. I suspect that'll still be said when a study is done on 10 million individuals, or a billion.

  • True, but... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pedrito (94783) on Thursday September 30, 2010 @07:39PM (#33754370) Homepage
    While I have no doubt it's true that a large number of genes contribute to height, it's very likely there are a handful of genes that have a significantly larger effect than the rest. It's a simple matter of statistics. If you have 100 genes that all have, more or less, the same small contribution, then there would be exceedingly few people who were over 6' and the distribution of heights would be most people very close to the same height and only a handful of outliers. You also wouldn't have unusual heights being very heritable (which they are). There must be just a few genes that have a much more significant effect than others.
    • by Nyh (55741)

      Genes determine what is possible. But the environment determines whether these possibilities actually happen. In case of height I think food is very important for the expression of the genes.

      Nyh

  • As far as I know, there are no single genes for general traits like height, intelligence, race, etc. Claiming that one exists is a new form of logical fallacy, named after one of the most egregious abusers:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewontin's_Fallacy [wikipedia.org]

    Now if we can just train our media to stop talking about "the height gene" or "the nine inch penis gene" we'll have it made.

  • It's good to know that science can definitively prove why I'm a freak. Father - 6'0", Mother - 6'0", Me - 6'10"...
  • The reason that people are paying attention to hight is, in part, that it's a simply measured complex trait. Every study of human genetics under the sun collects basic anthropometrics, and so it's relatively easy to lump everyone together in an effort to increase the power to detect genetic variation that influences height. I think the real interesting part here is that even after collecting a hundred thousand data points, the obvious data analysis methods can account for a relatively low proportion of th

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