Newly identified height genes may lead to treatments for arthritis and cancer

New research which has identified 20 sections of genetic code linked to height may also lead to new treatments for arthritis and cancer.

The researchers from the Peninsula Medical School, Exeter in the UK, say the research has revealed an insight into how the body grows and may also explain how conditions such as osteoarthritis and cancers develop.

The team discovered the "height gene" last year after examining DNA samples from more than 30,000 people across Europe and identified the regions of code which make a difference of up to six centimetres in height.

Researcher Dr. Tim Frayling says the number and variety of genetic regions found, show that height is not just caused by a few genes operating in the long bones.

They say height is 90 per cent determined by genes, rather than external factors such as diet and suggest that their research implicates genes that explain a whole range of important biological processes.

Dr. Frayling says the identification of the genes which affect normal growth could lead to an understanding of the processes that lead to abnormal growth such as tumours and not just height disorders.

It appears that some regions of the code identified regulate basic cell division, which could be useful for research into cancer, which causes uncontrolled division; others are concerned with cell-to-cell signalling, which is important in the early development of embryos.

Lead author Dr. Mike Weedon, says there may be more than a hundred genes which affect our height, many of which will work in surprising or unpredictable ways.

He says the challenge is to understand how they influence growth in the body and this could open up new avenues for treating a range of diseases.

The study is published in the journal Nature Genetics.

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