New information on the genetics of birth weight and adult metabolic diseases

Submitted on Wed, 10/05/2016 - 14:10

A large-scale international research has found genetic differences which help to explain why some babies are born larger or smaller than others. The research found sixty new genetic regions which regulate fetal growth and have an impact on birth weight.

“Some of the genetic loci we found also regulate the risk of developing metabolic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases, in later life,” says Terho Lehtimäki, Professor of Clinical Chemistry at the University of Tampere.

Based on previous research, it has been estimated that birth weight is influenced by factors related to the mother and the baby’s environment during pregnancy. Adverse conditions in early childhood have been thought to be the reason why children born larger or smaller than the average are in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular diseases in later life.

The researchers analysed the genomes and birth weight of nearly 154,000 people from across the world and found that 60 genetic loci regulate birth weight. The analysis of the loci in the meta-analysis data of those suffering from diabetes and cardiovascular diseases showed that many of the loci had an impact on both birth weight and the risk of metabolic diseases. These genetic regions combined explain about 15 per cent of the genetic variance of birth weight.

“The new results provide much more detailed information on genetic differences and environmental factors and on how they are associated with early growth and the future risk of disease,” says Leo-Pekka Lyytikäinen from the University of Tampere who worked as a bioanalyst in the research.

The research results may help prevent type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases and develop their treatment.

The research was published in Nature: Genome-wide associations for birth weight and correlations with adult disease

For more information, please contact:
Professor Terho Lehtimäki, tel. +358 50 433 6285,