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Since our last report on the voluntary Hungarian Twin Registry (HTR) in 2012, the number of pairs or multiplets included increased from 310 to 1044. Efforts to turn the registry into a population-based one are on the way. Nearly 128,000 twins living in Hungary (98,500 adults) will be mailed information on how to register on the new HTR website. Twins will be asked to invite their spouses and immediate family members. Meanwhile, strong cooperation through exchange programs has been developed with other foreign twin registries. Current research focuses on radiogenomics, musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, gut microbiome as well as basic molecular research and yielded new awards and further publications.
The COllaborative project of Development of Anthropometrical measures in Twins (CODATwins) project is a large international collaborative effort to analyze individual-level phenotype data from twins in multiple cohorts from different environments. The main objective is to study factors that modify genetic and environmental variation of height, body mass index (BMI, kg/m2) and size at birth, and additionally to address other research questions such as long-term consequences of birth size. The project started in 2013 and is open to all twin projects in the world having height and weight measures on twins with information on zygosity. Thus far, 54 twin projects from 24 countries have provided individual-level data. The CODATwins database includes 489,981 twin individuals (228,635 complete twin pairs). Since many twin cohorts have collected longitudinal data, there is a total of 1,049,785 height and weight observations. For many cohorts, we also have information on birth weight and length, own smoking behavior and own or parental education. We found that the heritability estimates of height and BMI systematically changed from infancy to old age. Remarkably, only minor differences in the heritability estimates were found across cultural–geographic regions, measurement time and birth cohort for height and BMI. In addition to genetic epidemiological studies, we looked at associations of height and BMI with education, birth weight and smoking status. Within-family analyses examined differences within same-sex and opposite-sex dizygotic twins in birth size and later development. The CODATwins project demonstrates the feasibility and value of international collaboration to address gene-by-exposure interactions that require large sample sizes and address the effects of different exposures across time, geographical regions and socioeconomic status.
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.
We analyzed birth order differences in means and variances of height and body mass index (BMI) in monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins from infancy to old age. The data were derived from the international CODATwins database. The total number of height and BMI measures from 0.5 to 79.5 years of age was 397,466. As expected, first-born twins had greater birth weight than second-born twins. With respect to height, first-born twins were slightly taller than second-born twins in childhood. After adjusting the results for birth weight, the birth order differences decreased and were no longer statistically significant. First-born twins had greater BMI than the second-born twins over childhood and adolescence. After adjusting the results for birth weight, birth order was still associated with BMI until 12 years of age. No interaction effect between birth order and zygosity was found. Only limited evidence was found that birth order influenced variances of height or BMI. The results were similar among boys and girls and also in MZ and DZ twins. Overall, the differences in height and BMI between first- and second-born twins were modest even in early childhood, while adjustment for birth weight reduced the birth order differences but did not remove them for BMI.
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.
From November 16–19, 2014, twin researchers of the world will descend on the lovely city of Budapest, Hungary for the 3rd World Congress on Twin Pregnancy, held in conjunction with the 15th Congress of the International Society of Twin Studies (ISTS). It is the first time a Central and Eastern European country will host the congress. On this occasion, we were honored by the request from the editor of Twin Research and Human Genetics, Nick Martin, to put together a special issue highlighting twin research conducted in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE).
Valvular heart disease is a multifactorial disorder. Twin studies may help to better understand both genetic and environmental determinants contributing to the development of valve lesions. We describe the case of a 45-year-old female asymptomatic triplet with multiple valvular heart lesions, with a somewhat different pattern between the dizygotic twin pairs compared with the monozygotic twin pair. After thorough assessment of medical history and physical examination, the triplet underwent two- and three-dimensional transthoracic and transesophageal echocardiographic examinations to assess the pathomechanism and severity of their heart valve lesions. The monozygotic twin pair (second-born twin B and third-born twin C) showed the same pattern of valvular lesions: mild mitral, tricuspidal, and aortic regurgitation of the same pathomechanism (posterior mitral valve cleft and aortosclerosis). Interestingly, the examination of first-born twin (twin A), who was dizygotic to twins B and C, revealed mild protosystolic mitral and mild tricuspidal regurgitation, but neither aortic insufficiency nor mitral cleft or indentation could be detected. Beyond the genetic effect, we presume that the intrauterine twinning process might also play a role in the development of congenital valvular heart disease. In order to verify this, further investigation should be performed on larger twin populations. Nevertheless, when one twin is affected, the other asymptomatic twin should also be examined for valvular heart disease.
The first Hungarian Twin Registry was established in Budapest in 1970 through the mandatory reporting of multiple-births. In the 1980s a second, volunteer adult registry was also founded. Unfortunately, both registries ceased to exist in the 1990s. Efforts started in 2006 to revive a Hungarian twin registry. The team spearheading this effort reports here on this progress. Currently, the voluntary Hungarian Twin Registry consists of 310 adult twin pairs and multiplets. Current research focuses on cardiovascular and respiratory health and yielded multiple awards and publications. Efforts are on the way to expand into social, psychological, and obesity studies.
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