Avera Medical Minute AMcK: First set of adult triplets join Avera Twin Register

The power of twin research is unparalleled when it comes to learning how much of a certain trait or disease is related to genetics and how much of it is related to environment – the age-old nature-versus-nurture debate.

Avera has the first and only Twin Register in South Dakota.

“And then I’m the oldest,” said Margie Anthony.

“And I’m the middle,” said Catherine Anthony.

“And I’m the youngest,” said Eileen Tana.

Born just minutes apart, the Anthony triplets have spent most of their lives together – each having their own unique qualities.

“She (Margie) would be the more outgoing person. She’s loud – which, I mean, is not a bad thing. I’m a little bit more reserved,” said Catherine.

“She’s (Catherine) more independent,” said Eileen.

“And she’s (Eileen) kind of a mix of both of us,” said Catherine.

“I think I’m the mother of the two,” said Eileen.

So when they heard about the Twin Register at the Avera Institute for Human Genetics, they jumped at the chance to be a part of it.

“I want to give as much information as possible,” said Margie.

“Anything we can do to contribute to the research that they have going on I think would be awesome,” said Catherine.

“Julie showed us the lab and I thought it was so interesting all the stuff they do in there,” said Eileen.

“The triplets are new to our register and they are our first adult triplets,” said Julie Kittelsrud, PhD, CNP.

Kittelsrud says the Twin Register is a longitudinal study so it goes on over many years.

“We look at genes and environment -- and twins are really kind of the gold standard of looking at how our environment affects us and how our genetics affect us. So environmental factors such as smoking and the amount of exercise someone gets really affects their health and their health status. And so that versus what they’re genetically geared towards can give us a better understanding of what their health outcomes can be,” said Kittelsrud.

As Margie explains, it’s a simple process to become part of the Twin Register.

“We did the cotton swabs. We did a questionnaire. She gave us a tour so it didn’t take long at all, “said Margie.

After the initial cheek swab to collect DNA, register participants will receive a questionnaire to fill out once a year.

“Anyone who’s a multiple or a triplet, anything like that – I highly recommend doing it because not only is it an awesome opportunity, I think it would also help you understand who you are individually and genetically and stuff like that,” said Catherine.

It’s safe to say these triplets share a very special bond.

“These are my girls,” said Catherine.

Currently the Twin Register has almost 300 sets of multiples but more are needed. It’s open to twins, triplets, quadruplets or any higher multiples.

For more information just call 877-AT-AVERA or click on the link provided with this story.