Twin research

Our twin registry

Our registry of 12,000 adult twins is the largest in the UK.

Working with the Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College London, we use the register to study the genetic and environmental causes of age-related traits, such as heart disease and osteoporosis, and complex diseases like diabetes.

  • Epitwin

    Epitwin is an ambitious, large scale project investigating human genetics. It is comparing the DNA methylation patterns of twins’ blood samples. ‘Epigenetics’ explores how the actions of genes can be temporarily modified by chemical reactions (including methylation) that occur randomly, or due to lifestyle or diet. This effect can be passed to the next generation.

    Previous studies have looked for similarities – this project is looking for differences that explain why many identical twins don't develop the same diseases. This will identify key targets for the development of drug treatments.

    Initially the team will focus on obesity, diabetes, allergies, heart disease, osteoporosis and longevity, but the method can be applied to every common trait or disease.

    As part of EpiTwin, a number of subprojects have been made possible, including:

    • Heritability of epigenetics – looking at the heritability of epigenetic markers between two or more generations.
    • DNA methylation changes in common complex disease – investigating the association between methylation patterns and diseases including allergy, asthma, biological aging, obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and osteoporosis.
    • Methylation patterns within different tissues – examining methylation patterns across multiple tissues in collaboration with a Wellcome Trust project (MuTHER) and a European-funded project (Eurobats).

This is just a small amount of the research we do in this area. If you’re a patient interested in finding out more, then speak to your consultant at your next appointment. If you are not a patient at Guy’s and St Thomas’ then speak to your own consultant in the first instance.

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