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Gene in Focus: Part 10 - GDF-5

Posted 563 Days Ago in: Training, Genetics

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GDF-5 is a gene which encodes for a protein called Growth Differentiation Factor-5. Whilst the specific role of this protein is currently unknown, we do know that a SNP contained within the gene is associated with an increased injury risk, especially with regards to tendons, ligaments, and bone.

One study which looked at this was published in 2010. In this study, researchers got a group of people who were suffering from an Achilles tendon injury, and a group who weren’t. What they found was that, within a group of the people with an Achilles tendon injury, the TT genotype of GDF-5 was significantly “over-represented”, meaning that it was more common than both the CC and CT genotypes. Further analysis from this paper lead the researchers to conclude that those people with the TT genotype of GDF-5 were about twice as likely to develop Achilles tendinopathy than C allele carriers. It is based on research like this, and similar papers, that we report that the T allele of GDF-5 is associated with an increased tendon and ligament injury.

 

We also look at GDF-5 from the perspective of bone health. Plenty of researchers have looked at this, and we will look at an example of one study from 2009. In this study, the scientists looked at over 6000 people, to see if there was any association between their GDF-5 genotype and their risk of developing osteoarthritis, a disease that affects joints, caused by the breakdown cartilage and bone, resulting in pain, and also their risk of suffering a bone fracture. They found that, in elderly women, those with the CC genotype of GDF-5 had just under a 40% less chance of developing osteoarthritis in their hands, and just over 30% less chance of developing it in their knees. They also had a 29% less chance of suffering from a fracture. This lead the researchers to conclude that CC genotypes were protected against both osteoarthritis and fracture risk.

 

What does all this mean for you? If you have a T allele, you potentially have a higher injury risk, especially compared to those with the CC genotype – both in terms of tendon injury, but also bone injury. Whilst this sounds like bad news, it really isn’t – being aware of this allows you to be proactive in terms of injury prevention. This might take the form of regular massage, or injury prevention techniques such as eccentric loading exercises, which have been shown to be very effective at reducing the risk and severity of symptoms of tendon injuries, especially Achilles tendon injuries. From the perspective of bone injuries, regular exercise has been show to increase bone strength, so it might be a factor to motivate those at an increased risk of bone injury (such as the elderly) to exercise a bit more, as well as consume more nutrients that have been potentially associated with an increase in bone health (such as 800iu Vitamin D and 1000mg of calcium daily), and possibly avoiding high caffeine intakes, which can reduce bone mineral density, and therefore increase the risk of developing a fracture. The table below summarises the effects of the different GDF-5 genotypes:

 

GDF-5 Genotype

Effect

CC

No increased risk of developing tendinopathy or osteoarthritis.

CT

Moderately increased risk of developing tendinopathy and osteoarthritis. Make sure to undertake prehabilitation exercises to reduce these risk, and consider nutritional support for bone health.

TT

Increased risk of tendinopathy and osteoarthritis. Make sure to undertake prehabilitation exercises to reduce these risk, and consider nutritional support for bone health.

 

 

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Gene in Focus GDF-5 Genetics Injury risk Sports Fitness

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