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Whether monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins differ from each other in a variety of phenotypes is important for genetic twin modeling and for inferences made from twin studies in general. We analyzed whether there were differences in individual, maternal and paternal education between MZ and DZ twins in a large pooled dataset. Information was gathered on individual education for 218,362 adult twins from 27 twin cohorts (53% females; 39% MZ twins), and on maternal and paternal education for 147,315 and 143,056 twins respectively, from 28 twin cohorts (52% females; 38% MZ twins). Together, we had information on individual or parental education from 42 twin cohorts representing 19 countries. The original education classifications were transformed to education years and analyzed using linear regression models. Overall, MZ males had 0.26 (95% CI [0.21, 0.31]) years and MZ females 0.17 (95% CI [0.12, 0.21]) years longer education than DZ twins. The zygosity difference became smaller in more recent birth cohorts for both males and females. Parental education was somewhat longer for fathers of DZ twins in cohorts born in 1990–1999 (0.16 years, 95% CI [0.08, 0.25]) and 2000 or later (0.11 years, 95% CI [0.00, 0.22]), compared with fathers of MZ twins. The results show that the years of both individual and parental education are largely similar in MZ and DZ twins. We suggest that the socio-economic differences between MZ and DZ twins are so small that inferences based upon genetic modeling of twin data are not affected.
A trend toward greater body size in dizygotic (DZ) than in monozygotic (MZ) twins has been suggested by some but not all studies, and this difference may also vary by age. We analyzed zygosity differences in mean values and variances of height and body mass index (BMI) among male and female twins from infancy to old age. Data were derived from an international database of 54 twin cohorts participating in the COllaborative project of Development of Anthropometrical measures in Twins (CODATwins), and included 842,951 height and BMI measurements from twins aged 1 to 102 years. The results showed that DZ twins were consistently taller than MZ twins, with differences of up to 2.0 cm in childhood and adolescence and up to 0.9 cm in adulthood. Similarly, a greater mean BMI of up to 0.3 kg/m2 in childhood and adolescence and up to 0.2 kg/m2 in adulthood was observed in DZ twins, although the pattern was less consistent. DZ twins presented up to 1.7% greater height and 1.9% greater BMI than MZ twins; these percentage differences were largest in middle and late childhood and decreased with age in both sexes. The variance of height was similar in MZ and DZ twins at most ages. In contrast, the variance of BMI was significantly higher in DZ than in MZ twins, particularly in childhood. In conclusion, DZ twins were generally taller and had greater BMI than MZ twins, but the differences decreased with age in both sexes.
For over 100 years, the genetics of human anthropometric traits has attracted scientific interest. In particular, height and body mass index (BMI, calculated as kg/m2) have been under intensive genetic research. However, it is still largely unknown whether and how heritability estimates vary between human populations. Opportunities to address this question have increased recently because of the establishment of many new twin cohorts and the increasing accumulation of data in established twin cohorts. We started a new research project to analyze systematically (1) the variation of heritability estimates of height, BMI and their trajectories over the life course between birth cohorts, ethnicities and countries, and (2) to study the effects of birth-related factors, education and smoking on these anthropometric traits and whether these effects vary between twin cohorts. We identified 67 twin projects, including both monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins, using various sources. We asked for individual level data on height and weight including repeated measurements, birth related traits, background variables, education and smoking. By the end of 2014, 48 projects participated. Together, we have 893,458 height and weight measures (52% females) from 434,723 twin individuals, including 201,192 complete twin pairs (40% monozygotic, 40% same-sex dizygotic and 20% opposite-sex dizygotic) representing 22 countries. This project demonstrates that large-scale international twin studies are feasible and can promote the use of existing data for novel research purposes.
The International Network of Twin Registries (INTR) aims to foster scientific collaboration and promote twin research on a global scale by working to expand the resources of twin registries around the world and make them available to researchers who adhere to established guidelines for international collaboration. Our vision is to create an unprecedented scientific network of twin registries that will advance knowledge in ways that are impossible for individual registries, and includes the harmonization of data. INTR will also promote a broad range of activities, including the development of a website, formulation of data harmonization protocols, creation of a library of software tools for twin studies, design of a search engine to identify research partners, establishment of searchable inventories of data and biospecimens, development of templates for informed consent and data sharing, organization of symposia at International Society of Twin Studies conferences, support for scholar exchanges, and writing grant proposals.
The study of twin subjects permits the documentation of crude heritability and may promote the identification of specific causal alleles. We believe that at the current time, the chief research advantage of twins as subjects, especially monozygotic twins, is that the commonality of their genetic and cultural identity simplifies the interpretation of biological associations. In order to study genetic and environmental determinants of cancer and chronic diseases, we developed two twin registries, maintained at the University of Southern California: The International Twin Study (ITS) and the California Twin Program (CTP). The ITS is a volunteer registry of twins with cancer and chronic disease consisting of 17,245 twin pairs affected by cancer and chronic disease, respectively, ascertained by advertising in periodicals from 1980–1991. The CTP is a population-based registry of California-born twin pairs ascertained by linking the California birth records to the State Department of Motor Vehicles. Over 51,000 individual California twins representing 36,965 pairs completed and returned 16-page questionnaires. Cancer diagnoses in the California twins are updated by regular linkage to the California Cancer Registry. Over 5,000 cancer patients are represented in the CTP. Twins from both registries have participated extensively in studies of breast cancer, melanoma, lymphoma, multiple sclerosis, systemic lupus erythematosus, diabetes mellitus type 1, mammographic density, smoking, and other traits and conditions.
The California Twin Program (CTP) is a population-based sample of over 52,000 twins in which a number of nested studies are ongoing. We outline our experience to date, providing estimates of crude response rates for a variety of different study designs and protocols. We have experienced very high response rates in our studies to date, even in studies with demanding protocols. Lowest response rates have occurred in studies among afflicted individuals, and in one with an unusual protocol. We have experienced some difficulty in locating original members of the cohort, despite efforts to trace individuals using a variety of sources of information. However, in most analyses, the participating sample of twins does not differ substantially from the underlying sample from the CTP. Future work will focus on improving methods of recontacting cohort members.
We describe the prevalence of chronic diseases and conditions in a large cohort of twins, which has been developed to facilitate studies of the role of genetics and environment in the development of disease. The California Twin Program (CTP) comprises twins born in California between 1908 and 1982. Birth records from all multiple births (256,616 in total) were linked (multiple times between 1990 and 2001) with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) roster of licensees to obtain address information. The linkages have revealed 161,109 matches and, because of less complete DMV records in some years, were less successful in older females than in all others. To date over 51,000 of these twins have completed a detailed 16-page mailed risk factor questionnaire. Based on estimates of numbers of individuals receiving a questionnaire, our crude response rates are as high as 63.6% (among females currently in their 50s), with an overall crude response rate of 37.9%. Similar to our previous report regarding the first 42,000 twins, the current group who have completed the questionnaire are representative of the population from which they were drawn (in terms of age, sex, race and residential distribution). Self-reported disease frequencies are provided, along with current estimates of future cancer incidence and mortality rates likely to be observed in the group. We outline our plans for cohort expansion, additional studies using the cohort, and future plans for inviting collaboration.
We have established a large cohort of twins to facilitate studies of the role of genetics and environment in the development of disease. The cohort has been derived from all multiple births occurring in California between 1908–82 (256,616 in total). We report here on our efforts to contact these twins and their completion of a detailed 16 page risk factor questionnaire. Addresses of the individuals were obtained by linking the birth records with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) roster of licensees. To date this has been completed for twins born between 1908 and 1972 (200,589 individuals). The linkage has revealed 112,468 matches and, because of less complete DMV records in some years, was less successful in older females than in younger females and all males. Over 41,000 twins have participated by completing the questionnaire. Based on estimates of numbers of individuals receiving a questionnaire, we estimate our crude response rate to be between 42.2% and 49.6%, highest among females in their 40s (62.8%). We describe the representativeness of the twins in the original birth cohort, those identified by the linkage, and those completing the questionnaire. Compared to the 1990 resident population of California-born resident singletons, the respondents were of similar age, sex, race and residential distribution (for although we were able to locate fewer older females, they had a higher response rate), but were less likely to have been educated for more than 12 years. We provide a brief synopsis of studies nested within this cohort. We also elucidate our plans for expanding the cohort in the near future.
Most epidemiologic studies employ a vacuum cleaner used by a trained technician to collect household allergens. This approach is labor intensive, equipment dependent, and impractical if study subjects reside over a wide geographic area. We examined the feasibility of a self-administered dust collection method, using an electrostatic cloth sent by conventional mail, to obtain allergen measurements. Thirty-two nonasthmatic twins from the California Twin Program wiped areas in the family room, kitchen, and bedroom, according to standardized instructions, and returned the cloths by mail. Allergen concentrations for Der-p-1, Der-f-1, Fel-d-1, and Bla-g-2 were determined using ELISA, and intrahouse and room-to-room concentrations were compared. Der-p-1 and Fel-d-1 were found in most homes, with highest concentrations in bedrooms and kitchens, respectively. Der-f-1 and Bla-g-2 were rarely found. Intrahouse Der-p-1 and Fel-d-1 concentrations were highly correlated and statistically significant (for Der-p-1, bedroom vs. kitchen, p = .0003, bedroom vs. family room, p = .0001, and family room vs. kitchen, p = .002; for Fel-d-1, bedroom vs. kitchen, p = .0004, bedroom vs. family room, p < .0001, and family room vs. kitchen, p = .0001). Reported cat ownership was strongly correlated with household Fel-d-1 concentrations (p < .005). In another comparison from different homes of children enrolled in the La Casa atopy prevention study, allergen concentrations measured from dust collected by a single operator from the left and right half of the same room in 21 homes were compared. Levels of Bla-g-2, Der-p-1, and Fel-d-1 concentrations collected from right and left halves of the same room were highly correlated, with r2 ranging from .7 to .9, and were highly statistically significant (all p values < .01). We conclude that nonintrusive and self-administered dust collection, using commercially available electrostatic dust cloths, sent by conventional mail services, is a promising alternative to technician-collected vacuumed dust for measuring indoor allergens in population-based studies, although further validation of the method is necessary.