Injuries - as much as we try to avoid them, they seem to be inevitable. Whether it be a pulled muscle, a sprained ankle, or a broken bone, we’ve pretty much all suffered from one at some point in our lives. But did you know, some of us are genetically wired to be more injury prone than others?
As usual, we have our genes to blame...
Deep within chromosome 20 lies GDF-5, a gene that plays a critical role in our susceptibility to injury. It gets its name from the protein it encodes for: Growth Differentiation Factor-5. This gene is known to influence both the growth and maintenance of bones, muscles, and tendons.
Before we dive into GDF-5 and why it’s important, let’s get a few definitions out of the way.
All About Alleles:
Tiny variations at the genetic level account for the major differences between you and those around you. An allele is a particular form of a specific gene. Each allele is denoted by a letter. For example, in the case of GDF-5, there’s a version of the gene known as “C”, and another known as “T”.For every gene in your body you inherit two alleles - one from your mother, one from your father. This two letter combination is known as your genotype.
Three genotypes exist for the GDF-5 gene. An individual can either have 2 T alleles (TT) 2 C alleles (CC) or one of each (CT). But why does it matter which alleles your genes are made of?
T is for Trouble:
Research has found that possessing 1 or more T alleles may hinder your ability to encode for essential elements involved in soft tissue repair, elevating your risk of injury. Scientists at the National Institute of Health (NIH) conducted two studies to confirm this.They first compared the genotypes of two groups of participants. Group A consisted of people with an injury known as achilles tendon pathology. Group B was made up of individuals with no achilles damage.
They found what they expected: the TT genotype was more prevalent than both the CT and CC genotype amongst the injured group. This lead them to conclude that having the TT genotype makes an individual twice as likely to develop achilles tendon pathology than those who possess at least 1 C allele. 
In a second study conducted on over 6,365 participants, the NIH found that people with the CC genotype were 28% less likely to develop osteoarthritis in their knees and nearly 40% less likely to develop it in their hands.  This clearly demonstrates the link between the T allele and impaired bone health.
Why is it Important to Know Your GDF-5 Genotype?
Say you are a T allele carrier. Are you doomed? No! Should you be taking preventative steps to guard yourself against injury? Absolutely.
Maybe this means eating a more calcium dense diet to promote bone strength, or switching up your training regime to avoid stressing vulnerable areas. It may be as simple as getting a regular massage.
Wondering if you are at an increased risk of bone and tissue injury? Take a test to find out! Armed with actionable information from the AGS Health & Wellness Genetic test, which examines GDF-5 and 60+ other genes, you can not only identify your injury risk, but start taking steps to minimize it.
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