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Many Height Genes Add Up

The world’s largest study into the genetic influences of human height has identified 697 DNA variants from more than a quarter of a million samples.

Joint lead author Dr Jian Yang of the Queensland Brain Institute said the findings proved exactly how complicated human height is. “The DNA variant with the largest effect on height only has an impact of about 5 mm, and most of the other variants have a much smaller effect,” he said.

“Taken together, all DNA variants we discovered account for height differences spanning approximately 11 cm. This shows that the genetic basis for height isn’t controlled by a single gene or small group of genes – there are thousands of genes involved.

“It’s estimated that about 80% of a normal healthy individual’s height is controlled by heritable genetic factors, and we’ve only discovered around one-fifth of those genes. The remaining 20% is determined by environmental factors such as nutrition and healthcare in childhood.”

The research, published in Nature Genetics, involved a genome-wide association study that sifted through two million DNA variants in more than 250,000 individuals to identify the genetic variants influencing height.