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Can Your Height Determine Your Risk of Osteoarthritis?

Get the Facts!

A study published earlier this year in Nature Genetics suggests that your risk of developing Osteoarthritis can be genetically linked to your height.  There are many elements that determine our height, including prenatal conditions, nutrition, and environment, but our genes actually influence our height by at least eighty percent.  Researchers, including Goncalo Abecasis of the University of Michigan School of Public Health and Karen Mohlke of the University of North Carolina, have found that a protein in the genes called GDF5 (Growth Differentiation Factor 5) is associated with both ailments of the musculoskeletal system and height.

The research was collected through a new process called a Genome-Wide Association Study.  This type of study allows material to be collected from various facilities and researchers, also allowing the study participants to be from different regions.  This enables a comprehensive and diversified study through collaboration.  This Genome-Wide study required an in-depth analysis of the participants’ complete DNA makeup.  This particular project involved more than 35,000 participants with various ancestries, including European, African-American, and Mediterranean. 

Researchers found that a lack of the GDF5 protein can hinder your growth, as well as decrease the production of cartilage in the spine and the weight bearing joints (hips, knees, and ankles).  The growth of the limbs and joints may shift from their normal development.  Osteoarthritis is then considered to be predisposed to your health, according to the adjustments in the way your bones have grown and developed.  There was no difference found between male and female participants.  The study found that in most cases the reduction of the genetic protein would cause you to be slightly shorter through variant growth retardation.