Hate Your Height? Scientists Uncover Genes You Can Blame

Whether you love or loathe your stature, scientists now know more genes you can thank, or blame.

A review of the genetic codes of more than 180,000 people revealed 180 places in our genome where common variations help determine how tall we grow. The finding gives scientists a better understanding of how genes influence our height.

These 180 variations account for only 10 percent of why we're born tall or short, but genes previously known to be at work bring the total portion higher, said Karen Mohlke, a genetics professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.

"By doing more sophisticated genetics, the number is closer to 16 percent," Mohlke, one of the many authors of the study, told MyHealthNewsDaily.

That means much of what determines human height has yet to be explained, she said, but the findings are still substantial in understanding how genetic variations influence height.

"We certainly didn't know which genes, or the extent to which many genes … would uncover the biology of height," said study researcher Dr. Joel Hirschhorn, of Children's Hospital Boston.

The findings provide insight into how variations in the human genetic code can influence common traits, and the methods used in this study can be applied to future research on traits and heritable diseases, Hirschhorn said.

The researchers found that many of the variations were near genes already known to cause skeletal growth problems, while others were near genes that have never been suspected of playing a role in determining height.

And at 19 of the 180 genome spots, the researchers found multiple variations, which suggests those spots play a huge role in childhood growth, they wrote.

Scientists looked only at variations present in many people in this study; they did not investigate rarer variations that could also influence height, Mohlke said.

"Less common, or rare, variants may be responsible" for some of the differences in height, too, Mohlke said.

Other influences of  height include diet and environmental factors, she said, though more research is needed to decide how much of a role they have.

The study was published online today (Sept. 29) in the journal Nature.

This article was provided by MyHealthNewsDaily, a sister site to LiveScience.

Amanda Chan
Amanda Chan was a staff writer for Live Science Health. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communication from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, and a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.