Tall tale: scientists unravel the genetics of human height

It’s no secret that if your dad is tall and your mother is tall, you are probably going to be tall. But fully understanding the genetics of height has been a big order for scientists. Researchers on Sunday unveiled what they called the biggest such study to date, analyzing genome data from more than a quarter million people to identify nearly 700 genetic variants and more than 400 genome regions relating to height. How tall or short a person becomes is estimated to be 80 percent genetic, with nutrition and other environmental factors accounting for the rest.

By understanding how the genetics of height works, we can understand how the genetics of human disease works.

Dr. Joel Hirschhorn, a geneticist and pediatric endocrinologist at Boston Children’s Hospital

In addition, short stature in childhood is a major clinical issue for pediatric endocrinologists. Knowing genes and their variants that are important for height eventually may help doctors diagnose children who have a single major underlying cause for short stature. The world’s people on average have become taller over the past few generations because of factors including improved nutrition.