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Researcher eNews, Autumn 2021

In this edition:

TRA celebrates 40th birthday 

Twins Research Australia is proud to be celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2021 and we’ve launched a special logo for the occasion. We thank the many researchers, partners and institutes – and, of course, our twin volunteers - who’ve made our many shared achievements possible. Learn more about the people, events and discoveries that have shaped our history here. We’ll keep you informed about other events and stories about our research impact that are planned across this special year.

New mammogram measures of breast cancer risk could revolutionise screening

TRA’s Professor John Hopper has been leading research into developing novel mammogram-based breast cancer risk measures based on image brightness and texture. A recent study which has come from this research found that when these measures are combined, they are more effective in stratifying women in terms of their risk of breast cancer than breast density and all known genetic risk factors. The study was run through the University of Melbourne and involved researchers and twin members from TRA, alongside collaborators and other participants from various organisations across Victoria. The researchers hope that if successfully adopted, their new measures could substantially improve screening, make it more effective in reducing mortality, and make it less stressful for women - therefore encouraging more to be screened. Professor Hopper believes that in terms of understanding how much women differ in their risks of breast cancer, these developments could be the most significant since the breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 were discovered 25 years ago. For further information, please see the original article from the University of Melbourne.

Data from our COVID-19 study now available

In April 2020, TRA began the Twins Research Australia COVID-19 Knowledge, Experience, Reaction, and Resilience study (TRACKERR). The TRACKERR study consists of a series of surveys aimed at investigating the short, medium and long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on Australian families. Different surveys were created for adult twins, junior twins and parents of junior twins, and they were rolled out in a series of phases over the course of the pandemic.

We have completed two waves of the adult version of the TRACKERR study. Survey 1 collected responses from the 15th of April to the 23rd of July 2020, while Survey 2 collected responses from the 14th of August to the 20th of October 2020. Survey 3 is currently underway. Nearly 4,000 individuals participated in Survey 1, and nearly 3,000 in Survey 2. Approximately 2,200 individuals took part in both. A summary of Survey 1 findings was released early in 2020.

Additionally, we have completed the first TRACKERR survey of parents of twins and triplets, which ran from the 12th of May to the 9th of July 2020. A preliminary synopsis of these results is now available in this infographic. A second survey of parents of twins and triplets is currently in development and will focus on the longer-term impact of COVID-19 restrictions on parents and families.

De-identified data from these surveys is now available for use by external researchers for ethically approved projects. Please visit this page for more information.

Upcoming Twins Congress 2021 - a message from our Deputy Director

The joint 5th World Congress on Twin Pregnancy and the 17th Congress of the International Society Twin Studies (ISTS) will be held online 4th-6th June 2021. The conference will be led by a panel of world-renowned speakers integrating international efforts on twins research and clinical management. 

As the conference will be Beijing-based, there will only be a 2-hour time difference for researchers based in Australia. Therefore, we encourage Australian twin researchers to register and submit abstracts by the upcoming deadline: 30th April. Registration is low cost due to the congress being online and there is a further discount for ISTS members. We encourage all Australian researchers to become members. We hope to see you there.

We also strongly recommend that you consider submitting twins manuscripts to the ISTS’s journal Twin Research and Human Genetics.

Professor Jeff Craig, Deputy Director of TRA and President of the ISTS

TRA researcher recognised in Victorian Premier’s Awards

Congratulations to TRA researcher Dr Shuai Li (pictured at far right) who was announced as a finalist in the 2020 Victorian Premier’s Awards for Health and Medical Research. The awards recognise the exceptional contributions and capabilities of Victoria’s emerging early career researchers in their PhD studies. Dr Li’s research investigated the genetic and environmental causes of DNA methylation and their implications in breast cancer risk, finding that it is largely determined by prenatal environmental factors and that genetic factors have little influence. A link to his research is here.

TRA team member awarded prestigious PhD Scholarship

Sam Crofts, a member of the TRA research and admin team has been awarded a prestigious Wellcome Trust PhD Studentship in Hosts, Pathogens and Global Health. Sam undertook his Master’s research investigating the association between SES and BMI using twin data from TRA’s Health and Lifestyle Questionnaire (soon to be published in Twins Research and Human Genetics). Sam will be leaving TRA at the end of the month to take up a short-term posting with the Victorian Department of Health in the COVID-19 Analytics team, before relocating to the University of Edinburgh later in the year. TRA wishes him every success in his new endeavours.

Study identifies genetic differences between monozygotic twins

Differences in phenotype between monozygotic twins have generally been attributed to environmental factors. This assumes that the contribution of different genetic mutations between monozygotic twins is negligible. However, a recent study published in Nature Genetics used genomic data of twins and their families to demonstrate that in 15% of monozygotic twins there are a substantial number of mutations that are specific to one twin but not the other. They showed that, on average, monozygotic twins differ by 5.2 early developmental mutations. These results suggest that scientists should be wary of assuming monozygotic twins are genetically identical and that such assumptions may lead to over-estimating the role of environmental factors.

Recent publications

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

Journal articles and book chapters:

Media stories:

Do you have upcoming research to be published?

If so, remember when referring to Twins Research Australia during the course of your research, to 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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