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PLoS One. 2012;7(1):e29883. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0029883. Epub 2012 Jan 10.

A multi-cohort study of polymorphisms in the GH/IGF axis and physical capability: the HALCyon programme.

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  • 1School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom.



Low muscle mass and function have been associated with poorer indicators of physical capability in older people, which are in-turn associated with increased mortality rates. The growth hormone/insulin-like growth factor (GH/IGF) axis is involved in muscle function and genetic variants in genes in the axis may influence measures of physical capability.


As part of the Healthy Ageing across the Life Course (HALCyon) programme, men and women from seven UK cohorts aged between 52 and 90 years old were genotyped for six polymorphisms: rs35767 (IGF1), rs7127900 (IGF2), rs2854744 (IGFBP3), rs2943641 (IRS1), rs2665802 (GH1) and the exon-3 deletion of GHR. The polymorphisms have previously been robustly associated with age-related traits or are potentially functional. Meta-analysis was used to pool within-study genotypic effects of the associations between the polymorphisms and four measures of physical capability: grip strength, timed walk or get up and go, chair rises and standing balance.


Few important associations were observed among the several tests. We found evidence that rs2665802 in GH1 was associated with inability to balance for 5 s (pooled odds ratio per minor allele = 0.90, 95% CI: 0.82-0.98, p-value = 0.01, n = 10,748), after adjusting for age and sex. We found no evidence for other associations between the polymorphisms and physical capability traits.


Our findings do not provide evidence for a substantial influence of these common polymorphisms in the GH/IGF axis on objectively measured physical capability levels in older adults.

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