Shortness Gene Identified

Deleted gene regions may cause some people to be of extremely short stature.

Nov 29, 2011
Tia Ghose

DOTTIE MAE, FLICKR

It’s no surprise that a person’s height is written in the genes, but individual genes have been found to predict only a small percentage of size variation in the population. A new has found that very short people had more rare deletions of gene regions than those of more average stature, suggesting that the number of deleted gene regions, not just individual gene mutations, may affect height.

A team of researchers from Children’s Hospital Boston analyzed the DNA from 4,400 children, and found that those at the bottom of the height pool had fewer copies of many genes than those in the middle of the pack, according to a study published in the December issue of American Journal of Human Genetics. When they extended their sample to include 6,900 African American adults, they found that the shortest 2.5 percent of the population also had excess amounts of gene deletions. While many of these “copy number variants” are inherited, some can arise spontaneously, lead researcher Joel Hirschorn told USA Today.

The study was limited by the fact that the original child subjects were being studied for developmental delays and problems such as Autism Spectrum Disorder or birth defects, which could have contributed to poor growth.