At first glance we share a face, the scale of the needle swings to the same point when we stand on the scales and our heights have always been the same on the door frame - except when Lisa refused to remove her Cinderella "Clip clop' shoes, but lets not get into that. However speak to us for under 10 seconds and you'll soon realise we couldn't be more different - Alana likes yoga, cheesy music and straight talking and Lisa likes running, Hip hop and chatting...a lot! We just assumed this was down to us spending 5 years apart in different cities, separate friendship groups or (cynically!) our desire to be seen as individuals and intentionally choosing different interests. HOWEVER we met up with Tim Spector: Professor of Genetic Epidemiology at Kings College, London & Director of the Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology and he suspects Alana having had antibiotics in our earlier years and Lisa being plagued with infection in our latter years, could play a part in a lot of our differences in health (and opinion). This could have affected the microbiome in our gut - ooohhh interesting you cry - and now here comes the sciencey bit... Research has shown that the 100 trillion bacteria living naturally in the gut play an important role in human health and disease. Each individual's bacteria are unique to him or her, and small changes in this finely balanced community can influence susceptibility to illnesses such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, cancer, heart disease and obesity. SO if our bacteria is unique to us, BUT we essentially have the same make up, lifestyle, diet and parts, then our guts can prove very interesting indeed. Identical twins are the perfect control for such experiments sharing 100% DNA but only 40% similar microbiome, so we are going to be working closely over the next while with the Department of Twin Research at Kings College London and their British Gut project, scribbling down food diaries and conducting all sort of experiments in order to aid their research.
We're benefitting the medical world, whilst getting to know our own bodies better, in turn (hopefully) making them healthier - it's WIN WIN all round. Who knew sharing a womb could be so salubrious?!
The Department of Twin Research is funded by the Wellcome Trust, European Commission, NIHR, CDRF and includes over 13,000 adult twins who take part in science through providing all sorts of personal and lifestyle information via questionnaires and visits to the centre where a number of tests are carried out, some simple like measuring your weight and height and some more more sophisticated, like bone density scans. Studies on twins are important as twins are the perfect controls and researchers can identify how genes and environment affects us by comparing identical and non identical twins. Also we can asses how environment and genes interact with each other - for example if one twin smokes or follows a particular diet, we can see how it ACTUALLY affects the body. So this is a call out for all you womb co-habitors out there, we've all had to hurdle stereotypes, struggle for our identity, share birthday cake and endure a lifetime of staring, but we can come together to change the medical world. Lets do this.
If you want to get involved head on over to www.twinsuk.ac.uk - remember this is for both monozygotic (identical) and dizygotic (non- identical) pairs.