Date: 11 March 2019
People who are shorter are more at risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), which causes pain in the hand, the world’s first study into the genetics of the condition has found.
The study of more than 12,000 people with CTS found that they were more likely to share the same genes.
Participants were selected from the UK Biobank, a cohort of 500,000 volunteers who have provided blood, urine and saliva samples and their details for future analysis.
Their details were used for a genome-wide association study (GWAS), to identify the regions in the human genetic blueprint, the genome, where variants in DNA contribute to disease risk.
Using tissue from patients in Oxford who underwent surgery to treat CTS, researchers found genes in tissue around the tendons of the carpal tunnel - a narrow passage in the wrist - that suggest genetic variants increase the risk of CTS.
Researchers found 16 regions in the genome which led to the identification of several genes that may contribute to the development of CTS.
These genes determine height and the study demonstrated that being shorter increases an individual's risk of developing CTS.
It provides the first explanation as to why people with the condition are just under an inch shorter on average.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common and disabling condition of the hand, caused by compression of the median nerve in the wrist.
Approximately 1 in 20 people in the UK will develop CTS at some point in their life and surgery to treat it is the most commonly performed operation by hand surgeons worldwide.
Despite being so common, the reason why certain people develop CTS is poorly understood and less is known about how genes determine who is more likely to develop the condition.
The study is being carried out by researchers at the University of Oxford and the Estonian Genome Center, with support from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).
Prof Dominic Furniss, the study’s chief investigator, said: "Many people have heard of carpal tunnel syndrome, and it is popularly portrayed as a disease associated with hand overuse. While there is evidence that certain occupational factors can increase an individual's risk of developing CTS, most people - including many doctors - are probably unaware that genetic risk factors are thought to be the most important determinants of who goes on to develop the disease. This study adds considerable weight to the genetic side of the story."
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