Identical Twins & Genetic Destiny
There is a fascinating recent study from Finland on pairs of identical twins with very different exercise habits. This is unusual because widely divergent behavior patterns between identical twins are uncommon. There were some pretty striking differences in thinks like exercise capacity, metabolism and even brain structure in the active vs. inactive twins showing that even when the “genes are the same” behavior can really make a difference. The details of the paper were beautifully summarized by Gretchen Reynolds in the New York Times with some excellent insights from the authors of the paper included in her article. Some additional thoughts about what this all means are available in an excellent commentary by Alex Hutchinson in Runner’s World.
This study and the outstanding pieces by Gretchen and Alex reminded me of a paper from the early 1980s on the different physiological adaptations to strength and endurance training. The paper included the pictures below of identical twin brothers. One was an endurance runner, the other a weight lifter.
The picture speaks for itself. The lifter was 16kg (35 lbs) heavier than the runner, but the runner’s heart was about 25% larger and his maximal oxygen uptake more than 50% greater than his brother’s. Of note, the height of the brothers and things like their hair patterns are strikingly similar. For those who want to know more about the strengths and limitations of twin studies and what can be inferred from them here is an informative link.
That such big differences in physiology can be seen in people who have “identical” genes is pretty convincing evidence that for many things our genes are not our destiny.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 17th, 2015 at 4:38 am and is filed under Current Events, Research and Health. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.