Twins as Participants in Randomized Controlled Trials: A Review of Published Literature

Athula Sumathipala, Lisa Yelland, Debra Green, Tom Shepherd, Kaushalya Jayaweera, Paulo Ferreira, Jeffrey M. Craig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins participate in research that partitions variance in health, disease, and behavior into genetic and environmental components. However, there are other innovative roles for twins in medical research. One such way is involving MZ and/or DZ twins in co-twin control-designed randomized controlled trials (RCTs). To our knowledge, no reviews have been conducted that summarizes the involvement of twins in RCTs. Therefore, we conducted a systematic literature search using the U.S. Clinical Trials Database, NHS electronic databases, MEDLINE, EMBASE, and PsychINFO for RCTs on publications involving MZ and/or DZ twins as RCT participants. Out of the 186,027 clinical trials registered in the U.S. clinical trial register, only six RCTs used twins as participants. From 1,598 articles identified in our search, 50 peer-reviewed English language publications met our pre-defined inclusion criteria. Sample sizes for RCTs have ranged from a total number of participants from 2 to 1,162; however, 32 (64%) studies had a sample size of 100 or less, and of those, 12 (24%) had fewer than 10. Both MZ and DZ twins have been recruited to the RCTs. In most instances (33/50) each twin from a pair were assigned to different study arms. Most of those studies included MZ twins only. Despite the methodological advantages, the use of MZ and DZ twins as participants in interventional RCTs appeared limited. The continuous development of innovative twin designs, especially RCTs, indicates that twin research can extend beyond the more widely recognized heritability estimates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-56
Number of pages6
JournalTwin Research and Human Genetics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 1 Feb 2018


  • RCT
  • randomization
  • sample size
  • twin research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  • Genetics(clinical)

Cite this