Research shows that there is a genetic link between growth during puberty and long-term health problems

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Mean peak height velocity (cm/year) versus mean age at peak height velocity (years) for cohorts from different ancestral backgrounds. Yellow and purple lines represent a linear model fit APHV ~ PHV × gender. Credit: Genome Biology (2024). DOI: 10.1186/s13059-023-03136-z

A genetic link between height gain during puberty and long-term health in adulthood has been identified by: new study from the University of Surrey and the University of Pennsylvania published in Genome Biology.

Researchers found that being taller in early puberty and growing rapidly in height during this period is linked to a higher risk of atrial fibrillation later in life.

The research team investigated whether genetics played a role in pubertal growth patterns and lifelong health problems. Growth during this period may be heritable, but the specific genetic factors underlying growth trajectories remain largely unknown.

To address this knowledge gap, researchers used a growth curve analysis of 56,000 people from different ancestral backgrounds, with their height measurements from age five to adulthood. Such data gave researchers a comprehensive picture of growth patterns across different populations and time periods.

Dr. Zhanna Balkhiyarova, co-author of the study and senior postdoctoral researcher at the University of Surrey, said: “Our study underlines the importance of large-scale genetic analyzes in unraveling the complexities of human health. By using big data, we reveal new insights into the genetic factors that influence growth during puberty and their long-term effects. With each discovery we get closer to a medicine that meets the unique needs of each individual.”

Researchers identified 26 genes associated with various aspects of pubertal growth, including the scale, timing and intensity of the growth spurt. In further examining the lifelong impact of genetic variants associated with pubertal growth trajectories, researchers also analyzed genetic correlation and phenotypes (observable characteristics of an individual) using data from the Penn Medicine Biobank and the UK Biobank.

Using these data, the team has for the first time identified the genetic relationships between height growth in children and a wide range of health outcomes across a person’s lifespan.

Being taller in early puberty and experiencing faster pubertal growth were associated with an increased risk of atrial fibrillation and an irregular and abnormally fast heart rate later in life.

They also found that individuals with a faster growth rate during puberty have high bone mineral density, higher insulin resistance and an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and lung cancer.

Dr. Anna Ulrich, formerly of the University of Surrey, said: “Our findings challenge the idea of ​​a one-size-fits-all optimal growth pattern. Instead, they underline the complex interplay between genetics and health, and highlight the importance of personalized approaches to health management.”

Professor Inga Prokopenko, senior investigator on the study, Professor of e-One Health and Head of Statistical Multi-Omics at the University of Surrey, said: “This study represents a major step forward in understanding the genetic basis of pubertal growth and the far -reaching implications for lifelong health.

“As we unlock the secrets encoded in our DNA, we move closer to a future where tailored interventions based on individual genetic profiles revolutionize healthcare.”

More information:
Jonathan P. Bradfield et al., Trans-ancestral genome-wide association study of longitudinal pubertal height growth and shared heritability with adult health outcomes, Genome Biology (2024). DOI: 10.1186/s13059-023-03136-z

Provided by the University of Surrey


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