Monday, April 7, 2008

Have you ever wondered wether your child will be tall or short?
As weird as it sounds perhaps Sonic the hedgehog may have the answer.
In the endless search through our genome, scientists have uncovered a cluster of key genes that control height, and some of the DNA sequences make genes that control the bizzarly named proteins, sonic hedgehog, Indian hedgehog and desert hedgehog.
The British study, published yesterday in the journal, Nature Genetics, involved through samples from over 30,000 Europeans to in search of common variations in the genetic code that may determine height.
The scientists found 20 new regions, or loci, when combined these 20 loci alone can change height in an individual by up to 6 cm.
Unlike obesity, which is driven by genetic and environmental factors, height is almost entirely a genetic affair.
Ninety per cent of normal variation in human height can be attributed to one's DNA heritage rather than nutrition.
The 20 loci account for roughly 3 per cent of this 90 per cent.
Last September, the same team found a genetic variant that accounted for another 0.3 per cent.
Some of the 20 genes spotted in the new probe are well known and their function has been intensively explored.
They include genes, such as the hedgehogs, that are essential for cell division, a finding that may be useful for cancer research. Some genes act as switches, which turn other genes on and off. And others play a role in cell-to-cell signalling.
But roughly half the genes are a completely unknown quantity.
Solomon Osei-Amo

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