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The National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council (NAS-NRC) Twin Registry is one of the oldest, national population-based twin registries in the USA. It comprises 15,924 White male twin pairs born in the years 1917–1927 (N = 31.848), both of whom served in the armed forces, chiefly during World War II. This article updates activities in this registry since the most recent report in Twin Research and Human Genetics (Page, 2006). Records-based data include information from enlistment charts and Veterans Administration data linkages. There have been three major epidemiologic questionnaires and an education and earnings survey. Separate data collection efforts with the NAS-NRC registry include the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) subsample, the Duke Twins Study of Memory in Aging and a clinically based study of Parkinson’s disease. Progress has been made on consolidating the various data holdings of the NAS-NRC Twin Registry. Data that had been available through the National Academy of Sciences are now freely available through National Archive of Computerized Data on Aging (NACDA).
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 Twin Research Registry (TRR) at SRI International is a community-based registry of twins established in 1995 by advertising in local media, mainly on radio stations and in newspapers. As of August 2012, there are 3,120 same- and opposite-sex twins enrolled; 86% are 18 years of age or older (mean age 44.9 years, SD 16.9 years) and 14% less than 18 years of age (mean age 8.9 years, SD 4.5); 67% are female, and 62% are self-reported monozygotic (MZ). More than 1,375 twins have participated in studies over the last 15 years in collaboration with the University of California Medical Center in San Francisco, the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and the Stanford University School of Medicine. Each twin completes a registration form with basic demographic information either online at the TRR Web site or during a telephone interview. Contact is maintained with members by means of annual newsletters and birthday cards. The managers of the TRR protect the confidentiality of twin data with established policies; no information is given to other researchers without prior permission from the twins; and all methods and procedures are reviewed by an Institutional Review Board. Phenotypes studied thus far include those related to nicotine metabolism, mutagen sensitivity, pain response before and after administration of an opioid, and a variety of immunological responses to environmental exposures, including second-hand smoke and vaccination for seasonal influenza virus and Varicella zoster virus. Twins in the TRR have participated in studies of complex, clinically relevant phenotypes that would not be feasible to measure in larger samples.
This article describes a pharmacogenetic investigation of nicotine metabolism in twins. One hundred and thirty-nine twin pairs (110 monozygotic and 29 dizygotic) were recruited and assessed for smoking status, zygosity, and health conditions known or suspected to affect drug metabolism. Participants underwent a 30-minute infusion of stable isotope-labeled nicotine and its major metabolite, cotinine, followed by an 8-hour in-hospital stay. Blood and urine samples were taken at regular intervals for analysis of nicotine, cotinine, and metabolites by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry or liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry and subsequent characterization of pharmacokinetic phenotypes. DNA was genotyped to confirm zygosity and for variation in the primary gene involved in nicotine metabolism, CYP2A6. Univariate and multivariate biometric analyses planned for the future will determine genetic and environmental influences on each pharmacokinetic measure individually and in combination with each other, and in the presence and absence of covariates, including measured genotype. When the analyses are completed, this study will result in a more complete characterization of the impact of genetic and environmental influences on nicotine and cotinine metabolic pathways than has heretofore been reported. The approach taken, with its use of a quantitative model of nicotine metabolism, highly refined metabolic phenotypes, measured genotype, and advanced tools for biometric genetic analysis, provides a model for the use of twins in next-generation studies of complex drug-metabolism phenotypes.
Nicotine and its primary oxidative metabolites are metabolized in part by glucuronidation. Genetic variation in UGT isoenzymes that catalyze glucuronidation activity suggests that variation in glucuronidation rate is in part genetically determined. The relative contribution of genetic and environmental sources to individual differences in the rate of glucuronidation of nicotine, cotinine, and trans-3'-hydroxycotinine was estimated in a twin study of nicotine pharmacokinetics. Glucuronidation rate was defined using measures that either accounted for variability in renal clearance or assumed the same relative renal clearance of parent drug and glucuronide conjugate across individuals. The former definition resulted in highly correlated nicotine and cotinine glucuronidation measures that were substantially influenced by the combined effect of additive (heritable) and non-additive (dominant and epistatic) genetic effects. These findings suggest that genetic variation in UGT isoenzymes that act in additive and interactive ways is an important determinant of individual variability in nicotine and cotinine metabolism via glucuronidation pathways.
Opioids are the cornerstone medication for the treatment of moderate to severe pain. However, analgesic opioid requirements and the propensity to suffer from aversive opioid effects, including fatal respiratory depression and addiction, vary widely among patients. The factors underlying the substantial response variance remain largely unknown and need clarification for using opioids more effectively in appropriately selected patients. This ongoing study takes advantage of the twin paradigm to estimate the genetic and environmental contributions to inter-individual differences in opioid responses. Evidence of significant heritability will justify more detailed and extensive genomic studies. The enrollment target is 80 monozygotic and 45 dizygotic twin pairs who undergo a target-controlled infusion of the opioid alfentanil and saline placebo in sequential but randomized order. In a laboratory-type setting, well-defined pharmacodynamic endpoints are measured to quantify pain sensitivity, analgesic opioid effects, and aversive opioid effects including respiratory depression, sedation and reinforcing affective responses. First results obtained in 159 participants provide evidence for the feasibility and utility of this interventional study paradigm to estimate familial aggregation and heritability components of relevant drug effects. Areas highlighted in this report include recruitment strategies, required infrastructure and personnel, selection of relevant outcome measures, drug infusion algorithm minimizing pharmacokinetic variability, and considerations for optimizing data quality and quantity without hampering feasibility. Applying the twin paradigm to complex and potentially harmful studies comprehensively characterizing pharmacological response profiles is without much precedent. Methods and first results including heritability estimates for heat and cold pain sensitivity should be of interest to investigators considering similar studies.