Genetics of early growth traits
Freathy, Rachel M.
JournalHuman Molecular Genetics
PublisherOxford University Press
Rights© The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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In recent years, genome-wide association studies have shed light on the genetics of early growth and its links with later-life health outcomes. Large-scale datasets and meta-analyses, combined with recently developed analytical methods, have enabled dissection of the maternal and fetal genetic contributions to variation in birth weight. Additionally, longitudinal approaches have shown differences between the genetic contributions to infant, childhood and adult adiposity. In contrast, studies of adult height loci have shown strong associations with early body length and childhood height. Early growth-associated loci provide useful tools for causal analyses: Mendelian randomization (MR) studies have provided evidence that early BMI and height are causally related to a number of adult health outcomes. We advise caution in the design and interpretation of MR studies of birth weight investigating effects of fetal growth on later-life cardiometabolic disease because birth weight is only a crude indicator of fetal growth, and the choice of genetic instrument (maternal or fetal) will greatly influence the interpretation of the results. Most genetic studies of early growth have to date centered on European-ancestry participants and outcomes measured at a single time-point, so key priorities for future studies of early growth genetics are aggregation of large samples of diverse ancestries and longitudinal studies of growth trajectories.