Monday, April 7, 2008

Do genes decide if we're vertically challenged?

Recently a team of scientific researchers identified a common gene that determines human height. Early this year the same researchers identified a sum of twenty regions of our genome that code for our height. This scientific discovery may lead to the advancement of other scientific investigations and could possibly even help in the battle against disease.

Last year DNA samples from 30,000 people across the world gave evidence to suggest that there are common variations of which influence adult height. Not only do the recent discoveries in this field create exciting new avenues in genetics concerning human growth, it also may contribute to other areas such as disease; particularly osteoarthritis and cancer.

"Our research implicates genes that could shed light on a whole range of biological processes. By identifying which genes affect normal growth, we can begin to understand the process that lead to abnormal growth not just height disorders but also tumour growth, for example", says Dr Frayling a devoted genetic researcher.

It was thought that a person's height was dependent on an even mix of genetic and environmental factors, similar to the chance of suffering from obesity. The recent discoveries have disproved this theory and research currently shows that approximately 90 percent of our normal variation in height is due to our genetics rather then environmental factors like our diet.

"There may be more than a hundred genes which affect our height, many of which will work in surprising and unpredictable ways", says Dr Mike Weedon. "The challenge for us now is to understand how they influence growth in the body. This could open up new avenues for treating a range of diseases."

Genes are vital for the development and function of the human body. Genetics is always making leaps and bounds with their breakthroughs and the wealth of knowledge yet to be discovered is astronomical. The discovery of genes that encode for our height discourages the idea of environmental influence and in doing so, pushes 'nature' in the limelight and 'nurture' into the shadows.

Written by Rohan Crothers (41751501)

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