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Heredity (Edinb). 2013 Mar;110(3):253-8. doi: 10.1038/hdy.2012.75. Epub 2012 Nov 14.

The heritability of metabolic profiles in newborn twins.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Iowa City, IA, USA.


Identifying genetic and metabolic biomarkers in neonates has the potential to improve diagnosis and treatment of common complex neonatal diseases, and potentially lead to risk assessment and preventative measures for common adulthood illnesses such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. There is a wealth of information on using fatty acid, amino acid and organic acid metabolite profiles to identify rare inherited congenital diseases through newborn screening, but little is known about these metabolic profiles in the context of the 'healthy' newborn. Recent studies have implicated many of the amino acid and fatty acid metabolites utilized in newborn screening in common complex adult diseases such as cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and obesity. To determine the heritability of metabolic profiles in newborns, we examined 381 twin pairs obtained from the Iowa Neonatal Metabolic Screening Program. Heritability was estimated using multilevel mixed-effects linear regression adjusting for gestational age, gender, weight and age at time of sample collection. The highest heritability was for short-chain acylcarnitines, specifically C4 (h²=0.66, P=2 × 10⁻¹⁶), C4-DC (h²=0.83, P<10⁻¹⁶) and C5 (h²=0.61, P=1 × 10⁻⁹). Thyroid stimulating hormone (h²=0.58, P=2 × 10⁻⁵) and immunoreactive trypsinogen (h²=0.52, P=3 × 10⁻⁹) also have a strong genetic component. This is direct evidence for a strong genetic contribution to the metabolic profile at birth and that newborn screening data can be utilized for studying the genetic regulation of many clinically relevant metabolites.

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