23andMe Reveals Genetics Behind Stretch Marks

Pregnancy BellyStretch marks are enough to send some new moms into a post partum panic.

That might be what fuels the estimated $5 billion to $10 billion spent on salves and oils to rub away the marks, also known as striae distensae. But scientists still don’t really understand why some individuals —men can also get the marks because of big fluctuations in their weight or BMI — end up with stretch marks while others don’t.

23andMe just published the first of its kind study looking at the genetics behind stretch marks. And the first four genetic variants were found to be associated with developing the marks.

“Through this first of its kind study, we’ve identified new genetic associations that can provide deeper insights into the root causes of stretch marks,” said Joyce Tung, Ph.D., author and 23andMe Director of Research.

In turn, the new insights could help in developing better treatments than spending hours rubbing coco butter and vitamin E oil on the marks. The work also helps point the direction for future study. One area our researchers would like to look at further is the potential effects of genes associated with obesity and the development of stretch marks, both independent of weight changes or because of weight loss or gain

The study — “Genome-wide association analysis implicates elastic microfibrils in the development of non-syndromic striae distensae” — appeared in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, a peer-reviewed scientific journal, published by the Nature Publishing Group.

Our researchers looked at more than 30,000 customers of European descent who responded to a survey, about a third of whom were cases (reported stretchmarks) and the rest were controls (reported no stretchmarks). The analysis identified an association between stretch marks and a variant near the ELN gene that encodes for the protein elastin. Defects in the gene are known to affect the integrity of the skin as well as cause heart defects. This study also identified an association between stretch marks and a variant in the SRPX gene, but more work is needed to understand how this could play a role in this condition.

Our researchers are continuing to work on the study looking at possible associations in non-European populations.

You can read more on this study here.