The breakthrough that reveals why humans are getting taller
Sensor in the brain tells the body that ‘we’re great here so grow quickly’, scientists say
The mystery of why human beings have rocketed in height over the past century has been explained by the discovery of a sensor in the brain, scientists have said.
“Average height in the UK rose by 3.9in (10cm) during the 20th Century,” increasing by “up to 7.8in in other countries as nutritional health improved”, said the BBC.
“But exactly how this happens has never been understood,” the broadcaster added.
Now, a study published in Nature has found that a brain receptor called MC3R is the pivotal link between food, puberty and growth.
According to Professor Stephen O’Rahilly, a researcher at the University of Cambridge and one of the study’s authors, the receptor essentially “tells the body we’re great here, we’ve got lots of food, so grow quickly, have puberty soon and make lots of babies”.
“It’s not just magic,” he told the BBC. “We have the complete wiring diagram for how it happens.”
The study, which also involved experts at Queen Mary University of London, the University of Bristol, the University of Michigan and Vanderbilt University, also found that when the “receptor doesn’t function at its optimum” people “can be shorter and start puberty later”, Metro said.
“Using the genetic make-up of 500,000 volunteers,” the paper added, researchers found “that children with gene mutations that affect the brain receptor were all shorter and lighter in weight than others”.
“There is an awful lot about the brain we still do not know”, said The Mirror, suggesting that the study “could lead to further development of drugs for children with delayed growth and puberty starting much later.
“More understanding of the receptor won’t mean that we can make ourselves taller,” the paper added, explaining how “that all still depends on genes”. However, “it could help people with chronic illnesses who need to build up muscle”.
O’Rahilly agreed, telling the BBC that “future research should investigate if drugs that selectively activate the MC3R might help redirect calories into muscle and other lean tissues, with the prospect of improving the physical functionality of such patients”.
According to Business Insider, the Netherlands is home to the world’s tallest people, with an average height of five feet eight inches. The tallest man in the world is Sultan Kosen, from Turkey, who “clocks in at 251cm”, which equates to eight feet two and a half inches, the site added.