The genetic influences on bone mass likely change throughout the life span, but most genetic studies of bone mass regulation have focused on adults. There is, however, a growing awareness of the importance of genes influencing the acquisition of bone mass during childhood on lifelong bone health. The present investigation examines genetic influences on childhood bone mass by estimating the residual heritabilities of different measures of second metacarpal bone mass in a sample of 600 10-year-old participants from 144 families in the Fels Longitudinal Study. Bivariate quantitative genetic analyses were conducted to estimate genetic correlations between cortical bone mass measures, and measures of bone growth and development. Using a maximum likelihood-based variance components method for pedigree data, we found a residual heritability estimate of 0.71 for second metacarpal cortical index. Residual heritability estimates for individual measures of cortical bone (e.g., lateral cortical thickness, medial cortical thickness) ranged from 0.47 to 0.58, at this pre-pubertal childhood age. Low genetic correlations were found between cortical bone measures and both bone length and skeletal age. However, after Bonferonni adjustment for multiple testing, ρG was not significantly different from 0 for any of these pairs of traits. Results of this investigation provide evidence of significant genetic control over bone mass largely independent of maturation while bones are actively growing and before rapid accrual of bone that typically occurs during puberty.
- Bone size