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Researcher eNews, Autumn 2020

In this edition:

Welcome to 2020 

Welcome to our first researcher eNews for 2020.  Despite the ravages of bushfires here in Australia and the impact of COVID-19 the world over, Twins Research Australia is working to full capacity to keep you up to date on twin research.

This edition of our eNews showcases the work that TRA is doing to ensure twin studies and the various data analytic methods are disseminated widely (see story about our latest seminar below) as well as the ongoing work of twin registries/studies around the world (see special edition of  Twin Research and Human Genetics, Volume 22 - Special Issue 6 - December 2019).  This is a great resource for anyone interested in or currently working in this area.

The value of twins for medical and health research: a third of a century of progress

A special edition of Twin Research and Human Genetics was published online earlier this year.  Twins Research Australia staff (Dr Jeff Craig and Dr Lucas Calais-Ferreira) and colleagues published a paper titled "The Value of Twins for Health and Medical Research: A Third of a Century of Progress" which discusses how far this endeavor has progressed since Hrubec and Robinette's 1984 review.  

This paper shows that twin studies now benefit from an expanded set of statistical models and a concerted global effort to coordinate twin research projects. Twin studies have changed the way we think about the etiology of such disorders as epilepsy, autism and schizophrenia. They have also demonstrated that heritability can differ according to age, socioeconomic status and total phenotypic variance. Research involving twins has been accelerated since the inception of twin registries and networks worldwide. Read more here.

Seminar on twin and family studies of environmental exposures, the human genome and DNA methylation

On 21 February 2020, researchers gathered at the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health, The University of Melbourne, to present their most recent findings and discuss analytical approaches to human epigenetics research. The seminar focused on twin and family studies of environmental exposures, the human genome and DNA methylation, and how they can contribute to this research area. Examples included the investigation of epigenetic profiles associated with cancers, epilepsy and neurodevelopmental disorders and risk factors such as smoking and gender. 

The event showed the potential of twin and family study designs to detect changes in epigenetic profiles. Prof Joohon Sung, from Seoul National University in South Korea, was the main speaker. He showed how changes in DNA methylation are being used to predict smoking as a risk factor for cancers, and showcased his collaborative work with Prof John Hopper and his team on breast cancer research.

The event was facilitated by the Australia-Korea Alliance for Science, Innovation and Action in Population and Global Health (AKASIA) and Twins Research Australia (TRA). Learn more about the seminar program here.

Conversations in twin research

Twins Research Australia is continuing its online series of papers in 2020, Conversations in Twin Research, to showcase the diverse application of the twin method to the research and health professionals’ community. The series aims to encourage a conversation regarding use of this approach in all areas of research, including education, early life origins of chronic disease, clinical trials and population health resources. Reflecting the importance of the importance of this series, it has now been awarded its own Online ISSN number [ISSN: 2652-5518].

Our latest ‘Conversations’ features Prof Jeff Craig on the topic Understanding early life origins of chronic disease.  Prof Craig explains: “Research has begun to show that, despite earlier assumptions to the contrary, twins do not always share the same environment in the womb. In cases where they don’t, we can learn a lot about the origins of chronic diseases.” He outlines how twin research has contributed to our understanding of early life origins of disease, and implications for the future. If you have any comments or questions, please go to our Facebook Twin Researcher and Stats Group here.

Twins Research Australia's travel grant scheme – round 21

Round 21 of the Twins Research Australia (TRA) Travel Grant Scheme opens for applications from 20 March 2020.

The TRA Travel Grant Scheme aims to encourage the growth and development of twin research in Australia, to benefit the whole population, by:

  • Supporting the training and development of Australian researchers in the methodology and practice of studies involving twins by offering financial assistance to attend TRA workshops and events.
  • Presenting and promoting TRA based twin research studies at scientific conferences.

To apply, please download and complete the application form; return with additional information to

The deadline for applications is 27 April 2020.

Further information including our Policy and FAQ's can be found on the TRA website.

Please note: If you are awarded a 2020 travel grant and there are changes or cancellations, our policy is to withdraw the award until such time that events are rescheduled.  At that time, past award recipients will be free to re-apply.  

Upcoming conferences

There are a number of upcoming conferences relevant to twin researchers.  Please find the details below.

TWINS 2020: Joint 5th World Congress on Twin Pregnancy: A Global Perspective and 17th Congress of the International Society Twin Studies (ISTS), Beijing 3-5 July, 2020. POSTPONED until 4-6 June 2021

World Congress of Epidemiology, Melbourne 13-16 Sept, 2020

Population Data Linkage Conference, Adelaide 27-29 Oct, 2020

Introduction to Statistical Analysis of Data from Twins: Expressions of interest are being called for from those interested in this workshop run by Twins Research Australia. If you, or someone you know, might be interested in attending this worskhop to be run in the latter part of the year, please contact Alison Wright

Anyone attending the above conferences is eligible to apply for Round 21 of the TRA Travel Grant Scheme. Further information on the TRA website.

Please note: In view of continuing news about COVID-19, Twins Research Australia cannot guarantee that any of the upcoming conferences will proceed as planned.  

Recent publications

A recent selection of publications from TRA and our collaborators are included below.

Journal articles:

Media stories:

Do you have upcoming research to be published?

Is so, remember when referring to Twins Research Australia during the course of your research please ensure you use our new name and logo. Also, a reminder to use the following wording when acknowledging Twins Research Australia in your publications:

“This research was facilitated through access to Twins Research Australia, a national resource supported by a Centre of Research Excellence Grant (ID: 1079102), from the National Health and Medical Research Council.”

An electronic copy of all publications should be sent to 


1800 037 021 | |

Our mailing address is: Twins Research Australia, 3/207 Bouverie Street, University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC 3010, Australia.

Copyright 2017: Twins Research Australia, Level 3, 207 Bouverie Street, Carlton, Victoria 3010. TRA is a national resource supported by a Centre of Research Excellence Grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council and administered by the University of Melbourne.

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