Scientists Pinpoint the Genes Responsible for How Tall You Are

Over the years, a lot of people have been obsessed with adding some inches to their height. Many companies claim to peddle remedies that can do the work. There is a lot of facts and myth surrounding the prospects of getting taller—ranging from dietary and lifestyle modifications to little stretch exercises here and there. At the core, of growing tall, the role played by the genes cannot be downplayed.

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There is a host of genes and other biological markers that interplay to determine the height of an individual. Finding and selecting those genes have always proved difficult. Until now!

Genes that influence height

New evidence suggests that the transcription factor TBX3 plays a key role in determining the body sizes of Chinese horses and ponies. This same factor exists in humans and subserves the same functions. TBX3 is one of the very few proteins in our genome that have a DNA binding domain that is well protected, called T-box.

Essentially, the T-box is a large protein that comprises hundreds of amino acids encoded by many exons. The values of the actual length of the T-box vary greatly a group of scientists concluded that the length is about 200 nucleotides, while another group reports that it is very short the length of palindromic sequence ‘TCACACCT’.

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The TBX has provided genetic answers on how to make people grow taller. Animal studies in TBx protein reveal that Tbx4 and Tbx5 determine hindlimb and forelimb growth respectively. In humans, Tbx4 and Tbx5 play a vital role in determining limb growth. These transcription factors are activated by special proteins called Hox genes this in turn starts a chain of events that involves the Wnt and FGF pathways in the budding limbs. In short, these signaling pathways interact to determine the extent to which limbs can grow.

The height of any individual is largely decided by the interplay of several heritable genes. The GWAS-style genomic is a technology used to identify genes involved in determining height. The GWAS style however does not offer much insight into the features of the genes. The SNOW (studying networks in the omics world), offers better insights as it constructs protein to protein contact networks. In addition, it can also map a host of genes over a reference interactome, where nodes are proteins and edges are interaction events.

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The pitfall of just naming genes and connecting them is that it does not consider the ranking of structures that affects the functioning of gene networks. Gene networks are links between parent and offspring, it is also a very open network, unpredictable. From the bottom of the pyramid up are the collagens, phosphates, calcium deposited in cartilaginous areas of bone. Higher up you get kinases, phosphatases, and Other factors that can modify the activity of the end effector. They do this by changing the makeup of the end effector. Epigenetic modifiers and factors such as TBX3 regulate the mid-level and end effectors. Their roles are very crucial.

Clinical significance

The discovery has given us the window of opportunity to explore the genetic mechanisms that influence height and that will go a long way to determine how we can control the outcome of linear growth.

When we have achieved this, it can serve as a safer alternative to the concoction that people gulp down or inject (HGH) in the name of growing taller.

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Pinpointing the different locales of transcription can sometimes prove to be difficult. Moreso, clearly defining its roles in that different locale can also be challenging. For instance, TBX3 in the hypothalamus regulates global body-wide signaling unlike its lengthening of the limb that it serves in budding limbs.


A single-nucleotide mutation within the TBX3 enhancer increased body size in Chinese horses


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