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Heritability: What's the point? What is it not for? A human genetics perspective

Abstract : In this paper, we explain the concept of heritability and describe the different methods and the genotype-phenotype correspondences used to estimate heritability in the specific field of human genetics. Heritability studies are conducted on extremely diverse human traits: quantitative traits (physical, biological, but also cognitive and behavioral measurements) and binary traits (as is the case of most human diseases). Instead of variables such as education and socio-economic status as covariates in genetic studies, they are now the direct object of genetic analysis. We make a review of the different assumptions underlying heritability estimates and dispute the validity of most of them. Moreover, and maybe more importantly, we show that they are very often misinterpreted. These erroneous interpretations lead to a vision of a genetic determinism of human traits. This vision is currently being widely disseminated not only by the mass media and the mainstream press, but also by the scientific press. We caution against the dangerous implication it has both medically and socially. Contrarily to the field of animal and plant genetics for which the polygenic model and the concept of heritability revolutionized selection methods, we explain why it does not provide answer in human genetics.
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Submitted on : Saturday, March 5, 2022 - 4:32:39 PM
Last modification on : Friday, August 5, 2022 - 2:49:41 PM
Long-term archiving on: : Monday, June 6, 2022 - 6:11:12 PM

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Nicolas Robette, Françoise Clerget-Darpoux, Emmanuelle Génin. Heritability: What's the point? What is it not for? A human genetics perspective. Genetica, Springer Verlag, 2022, Online ahead of print. ⟨10.1007/s10709-022-00149-7⟩. ⟨inserm-03598644⟩

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