How do twin-studies contribute to our understanding of heredity? And what kind of results do we get?
The role which genes play in the heredity of complex human traits often is simplified, in the public debate. The classic distinction between ‘genes’ and ‘environment’ has lost a lot of its meaning. Or rather: the image is getting more and more nuanced.
Concerning the study of the heredity of complex human traits the twin research of the VU University is internationally leading, thanks to their extensive twin-database. How do twin-studies contribute to our understanding of heredity? And what kind of results do we get?
Twin studies have demonstrated that many human traits differ between individuals at least partly because of genetic differences.
Recent technological advancements make it possible to measure up to millions of genetic variants at a genome-wide scale. This opens up the possibility to start looking for the actual genetic variants responsible for the heritability of complex human traits.
The effects of individual genetic variants are so small that hundreds of thousands of individuals are required in order to reach sufficient statistical power. This happens in ‘Genome-Wide Association Studies’.
Michel Nivard and Abdel Abdellaoui (VU University Amsterdam) will dig into the latest developments in genomic research, and highlight the way in which twin studies and modern molecular genetic studies increase our understanding of the biological mechanisms underlying complex human traits.