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Researchers Use Twins Days to Study Twins, Help Everyone

Every year twins volunteer for studies at Twins Days. Researchers don't just use the data to understand twins and help people of all types.

The Twins Days Festival is called the largest gathering of twins in the world. And that's exactly what researchers from universities and companies across the nation like to see.

Each year groups from academic institutions and corporations send research teams to find out more about twin-genetics. 

Teams this year included West Virginia, Ohio State, Proctor & Gamble and Lisa Dinardo, the academic coordinator for University Hospitals Plastic Surgery Department

Dinardo said many scientists and researchers are intrigued by twin genetics and how it makes them who they are. But she wants to know more about how environment and lifestyle affect them.

This year her team is looking at how those factors influence facial aging and migraine headaches in identical twins.

The pairs are surveyed about things like sun exposure, smoking, stress levels and more. They take photos of the two and analyze them to see if there are any differences in facial aging. If there are, they refer back to the surveys to see what causes may attribute to the differences.

"If a twin lives in Florida and is in the sun all the time and one lives up north and doesn't, they're born with the same genetic code, but together one may look older depending on their lifestyle," Dinardo said.

Identical twins are alike in every way that it makes it much easier to compare how different life aspects will physically affect one compared to the other. Because their genetics are the same, it is easier to realize environmental affects.

"By using twins, you start out with the same template and this is what ends up happening," Dinardo said. "You can then apply it to the general public."

Separating genetics and environment is same reason Purima Kumar and Dimitris Tatakis from the College of Dentistry at Ohio State University were came this weekend.

Their group is studying the role genetics plays in which types of bacteria reside in the mouth, how it shapes lips, gums and how tongue ties happen.

A tongue tie is restricted mobility of the tongue due to the shortness of the tissue between under the tongue. 

"You get a sense of how much of what you see is because of genetics and how much is environmental influence," Tatakis said.

Kumar said it's a simple study of nature versus nurture.

"How much of it is because of who you are and how much of it is because of what you practice of what you do?" Kumar said.

While everyone has bacteria in their mouth, the team is interested to see how genetics affects the bacterial profiles in the mouths of identical twins compared to fraternal (non-identical).

Tatakis said they need both types to better contrast the role of genetics in these studies because identicals share the exact same genes, while fraternals differ.

"It doesn't work by only looking at identical twins because they are similar," Tatakis said. "In order to make a conclusion we need both."

And there is no shortage of twins for them to study. Dinardo said many are glad to help in the research projects.

"They realize they have a unique contribution of being identical," she said. "This festival is amazing for this."

Dinardo said it would be incredibly difficult to do this research if it wasn't for Twins Days.

"Being able to study such a large number of people at one time is interesting," Dinardo said, but she also enjoys meeting multiples from all over the world and hearing their stories. 

That includes stories from twins like Linda Smith and Laura Rosemeyer, making their first visit to Twins Days from Lawrenceburg, IN.

They hoped to learn more about their identity as twins through the research, but believe these studies will be very helpful to the scientific field.

"I think they're going to be able to get great results with two people, about the same, take the same test," Laura said. "I think it's neat."

However, they still learned a little bit about themselves while taking the surveys.

"I looked over a few times and said, 'Hey, you put the same thing I did!'" Linda said. "We actually still think alike after 34 years."

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