New research from The University of Nottingham’s Professor John Armour and Dr Angus Davison, in collaboration with UCL’s Professor Chris McManus, has ruled out a ‘strong genetic determinant’ in influencing handedness.
The researchers conducted a twin study examining the whole genome — which contains hereditary information — of nearly 4,000 subjects from the London Twin Research Unit to compare left and right handed participants.
The study — ‘Genome-wide association study of handedness excludes simple genetic models’ — has been published in the journal Heredity.
The study was unable to find a strong genetic factor in determining handedness. If there was a single major genetic determination of handedness, there should be a detectable shift between left and right handed people in the frequency of variants in that part of the genome — and this isn’t the case.
Professor Armour, Professor of Human Genetics at The University of Nottingham, said: “There should be a detectable shift between right and left handed people because modern methods for typing genetic variation cover nearly all of the genome. A survey that compared the whole-genome genotypes for right and left handed people should leave such a gene nowhere to hide.”
Despite the absence of a strong genetic factor, it is widely believed that handedness is not only a matter of choice or learning. This study suggests, therefore, that genetic factors in handedness must be relatively weak and subtle, which has ramifications for future studies.
Professor Armour said: “It is likely that there are many relatively weak genetic factors in handedness, rather than any strong factors, and much bigger studies than our own will be needed to identify such genes unambiguously. As a consequence, even if these genes are identified in the future, it is very unlikely that handedness could be usefully predicted by analysis of human DNA.”
The findings of the study can be viewed on the Heredity website: http://www.nature.com/hdy/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/hdy201393a.html
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Notes to editors: The University of Nottinghamhas 42,000 students at award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It was ‘one of the first to embrace a truly international approach to higher education’, according to the Sunday Times University Guide 2013. It is also one of the most popular universities among graduate employers, one of the world’s greenest universities, and winner of the Times Higher Education Award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Sustainable Development’. It is ranked in the UK’s Top 10 and the World’s Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong and the QS World Rankings.
More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise. The University aims to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health. The University won a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education for its research into global food security.
More information is available from Professor John Armour, Professor in Human Genetics at The University of Nottingham, on +44 (0)115 823 0308, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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