Common genetic variants that play a key role in human height have been found linked to osteoarthritis.
Such were the findings confirmed by a new study co-led by the University of Michigan School of Public Health.
The new study confirms observations by health professionals of a connection between decreased height and increased risk of osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis.
Researchers speculate that both extremes of height may be associated with osteoarthritis for different reasons.
Shorter bones and/or less cartilage may render the joints more susceptible to damage, while longer bones may produce greater levels of damaging stress on the joints.
According to Gonçalo Abecasis, assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health who co-directed the study with Karen Mohlke of the University of North Carolina:
”The findings are exciting for several reasons. For one, there are many genes that control height, but only a few associated with osteoarthritis.
In this case the gene we picked also is important in osteoarthritis and it’s actually quite hard to find genes for osteoarthritis.
One of the things we were excited about is you could study (height) in many people, and once you’ve done that you have a short list of genes that you can then study for what they do in terms of osteoarthritis.”
The variants most strongly associated with height is identified as growth differentiation factor 5 (called GDF5) is a protein involved in the development of cartilage in the legs and other long bones.
Rare variants in the GDF5 gene have been associated with disorders of skeletal development, and more common variants recently have been tied to susceptibility to osteoarthritis of the hip and knees in Asian and European populations.
The researchers speculate that genetic variants that reduce production of the GDF5 protein may affect the amount of cartilage in the spine, the proportion of limbs and/or the angles of joints, resulting in both a modest decrease in height and increased susceptibility to osteoarthritis.
So, if one is either too tall or too short, both are at a greater risk for developing osteoarthritis.
Find more details from Science Daily.