Seeing double: hundreds of twins visit St Thomas' to celebrate 21 years of genetic discovery


Posted on Friday 7 June 2013
Professor, Tim Spector with some of the twins on our research register

On Saturday 8 June, Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust will celebrate with the Department of Twin Research at King's College London its 21st anniversary of genetic research.

Hundreds of twins will gather onto the grass at St Thomas' Hospital to take part in scientific experiments for research into pain, short-sightedness, hearing loss, skin ageing and telepathy.

Thanks to thousands of volunteer twins, scientists have discovered over 400 novel genes associated with more than 30 diseases over the last two decades, marking a golden era in genetic discovery.

The Department of Twin Research at King’s is home to TwinsUK – the biggest UK adult twin registry of 12,000 twins. Set up in 1992, the TwinsUK group has had a major impact on genetic discoveries, allowing researchers to study the genetic and environmental causes of common age-related traits and diseases such as short-sightedness, osteoporosis, cancer, pain, diabetes and obesity.

Professor Tim Spector, Director of TwinsUK at King’s College London, said: “This is a huge milestone for us and represents a coming of age landmark. We have published more than 600 scientific papers using the data we have collected from the thousands of twins involved in our work over the last 21 years. TwinsUK is one of the largest twin registries in the world. The participation and commitment of the twins over the years has made a huge difference to our scientific knowledge of many common diseases, and our gene discovery programme has shed light on important disease mechanisms and many potential new drug targets.

“We have experienced an unprecedented two decades of genetic research and could not have achieved this without our TwinsUK registry. I am extremely excited about what the future of genetics discovery will hold over the next 21 years, as we move into an era of personalised medicine.”

The Wellcome Trust and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre at Guy’s and St Thomas’ and King’s College London provide the core support for the TwinsUK group.

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