Twins' unique genetic makeup coupled with their shared environment (from conception on) makes them invaluable to health- and behavior-related research. You may have heard the expression "nature versus nurture;" twin studies have helped improve our understanding of this relationship because it allows researchers to better investigate the interplay between DNA and lifestyle factors, including diet, exercise, stress, relationships, and parental behaviors. From these studies, researchers can then begin to unravel causes of and contributing factors to the development of various diseases. This, in turn, can lead to the development of better prevention, diagnostic, and treatment plans that benefit twins and non-twins alike.

Both identical and fraternal twin pairs can contribute to this exciting research. Twins tend to share similar experiences, especially when they are raised in nearly identical environments, which is one of the reasons researchers enjoy working with twin pairs. Because identical twins have the same DNA and genetic expression, many of the differences between them can be attributed to external, environmental factors. Fraternal twins, on the other hand, share only about half of their genetic material—about the same percentage as non-twin siblings. Differences between them, then, especially regarding disease expression, is more likely attributed to genetic factors. This can lead to further investigation of possible environmental factors that play a role in the disease development.

Through their participation in our research, MATR twins and their families provide valuable information to researchers. This information can then be used to improve the health of society as a whole. Please note that not all participants in our studies have the disease or condition being investigated. Research requires a comparison of subjects; including those that have the condition and those that do not have the condition of interest. This method helps determine why some people get a disease or condition and others do not.