Genetics of modern Irish reveal why giants are so common in country’s folklore


Scientists at the University of Exeter Medical School were part of genetics research which could help explain the legend of giants in Irish folklore.

Led by Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, in collaboration with the universities of Exeter, Belfast and Dublin and University College London as well as 17 other Institutions, studied patients with the hormonal disorder acromegaly and tested DNA samples from the general public to identify carriers of a gene predisposing to childhood-onset acromegaly often leading to gigantism.

They identified a particular mutation in Irish patients…[and] the frequency of the AIP mutation (R304*) was found to be surprisingly high in Mid-Ulster, Northern Ireland.


This study may also give a scientific explanation for the numerous Gaelic myth of giants in Ireland, where the Giant causeway and the legend of the creation of a lake is strongly linked to giants. In modern history, famous Irish giants include Charles Byrne whose skeleton in the Hunterian Museum, London was studied and DNA sample showed he also carries the same mutation.

Importantly, the prediction that 436 carriers and 86 affected individuals may be undiagnosed and alive today in Ireland (or elsewhere among people with Irish ancestors), meant that we may be able in many patients to prevent the onset of gigantism and prevent the premature mortality associated with this potentially severely disfiguring condition.


The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: Genetic discovery helps explain Irish giant folklore

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