Genes Strongly Influence Height

(HealthDay News) — New research confirms that genetics play a huge role in determining height. The findings were published online Oct. 5 in the Nature Genetics.

The latest research doubles the number of gene regions that influence height: There are now 424 gene regions, with 697 common genetic variants, that play a role in stature. That’s the largest number to date linked with any one trait or disease, the researchers said.

The effort to find more genes linked to height was substantial: Hundreds of investigators analyzed genetic data from 253,288 people worldwide to pinpoint these new regions.

“Height is almost completely determined by genetics, but our earlier studies were only able to explain about 10% of this genetic influence,” study co-senior investigator Joel Hirschhorn, MD, of Boston Children’s Hospital and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, said in a hospital news release.

“Now, by doubling the number of people in our study, we have a much more complete picture of how common genetic variants affect height — how many of them there are and how much they contribute.” Hirschhorn is leader of the international Genetic Investigation of Anthropometric Traits (GIANT) Consortium, which conducted the study.

Many of the 697 height-related genetic variants identified in the study are located near genes known to be associated with growth. But there were also some surprises.

“Many of the genes we identified are likely to be important regulators of skeletal growth, but were not known to be involved until now,” Hirschhorn said. “Some may also be responsible for unexplained syndromes of abnormal skeletal growth in children. As you increase the sample size, you get more biology.”


  1. Wood AR et al. Nat Genet. 2014;doi:10.1038/ng.3097.