Epigenetics may reveal insights into anorexia
Flinders University's Professor Tracey Wade and a team of researchers at Melbourne's Murdoch Childrens Research Institute are only months from what may be an important turning point in the treatment of anorexia.
They have been comparing cheek swabs taken from 12 women who have been hospitalised for anorexia with samples from age-matched healthy women to see whether genes are being switched on or off during weight change.
Known as epigenetics, this relatively new scientific field explores the interaction between the environment and genes – and it is providing new insights into a range of diseases.
It is a shift in research focus for Professor Wade, a psychologist who specialises in the treatment of eating disorders using therapeutic relationships. If she and her colleagues are right, their findings could pave the way for the development of medication to treat anorexia, a perplexing and deadly disease.
"There have been only two epigenetic studies into anorexia – not a lot of people are doing this sort of work," Professor Wade said.
"We already know that food is important as one of these epigenetic switches. A study of the grandchildren of people who starved during the Dutch famine of World War II have higher mortality rates – they die significantly earlier, they have more cardiovascular and related problems – than other people in their generation," she said.
"That's the interesting thing about epigenetics: not only does the gene get switched on and off, it can be inherited."
Funded by an American family whose son died of anorexia, the project aims to establish whether genes that have been switched off by starvation can be switched on again as weight is regained.
"If the genes are responding to better nutrition, part of the practical implication is that perhaps we can kick-start recovery if eventually we can develop a medication that can switch that gene on earlier," Professor Wade said.
"Anorexia is a highly relapsing condition. Perhaps we can get people better more quickly and prevent some of the relapses."
While medication is unlikely to provide a "one answer fixes everything" solution, Professor Wade said it would add another important tool to the "toolbox we're trying to develop to help anorexia".
"We're still going to need a good therapeutic relationship. At the moment, we don't have any effective medication – we've been looking at antidepressants and antipsychotics – because I think we've been looking in the wrong direction," she said.
"This research may help us to look for a medication that we hadn't thought about before or something that could be developed that would be a novel piece in the puzzle.
"It helps us think outside the box which, when you're dealing with a perplexing disease such as anorexia, you need to do."
Provided by Flinders University
- New approach to diagnosing anorexia nervosa Jan 09, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- World's first trial of new anorexia treatment Jun 20, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Marking anorexia with a brain protein Jun 23, 2009 | not rated yet | 0
- Does eating give you pleasure or make you anxious? May 20, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Women with anorexia nervosa more likely to have unplanned pregnancies Oct 29, 2010 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
Classical and Quantum Mechanics via Lie algebras
Apr 15, 2011 I'd like to open a discussion thread for version 2 of the draft of my book ''Classical and Quantum Mechanics via Lie algebras'', available online at http://lanl.arxiv.org/abs/0810.1019 , and for the...
- More from Physics Forums - Independent Research
More news stories
Can human genes be patented? That was the question posed by Alan J. Snyder, vice president and associate provost for research and graduate studies at Lehigh, and Lee Kaplan, scientific director of cellular and molecular genetics ...
Genetics 3 hours ago | 4 / 5 (1) | 0
Researchers from Queen Mary, University of London have led the largest sequencing study of human disease to date, investigating the genetic basis of six autoimmune diseases.
Genetics May 22, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (4) | 0 |
University of Minnesota Medical School researchers from the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, in partnership with the University's Brain Tumor Program, have developed a new mouse model of malignant peripheral ...
Genetics May 20, 2013 | 5 / 5 (1) | 0 |
Northwestern University scientists have shown a gene involved in neurodegenerative disease also plays a critical role in the proper function of the circadian clock.
Genetics May 16, 2013 | 3 / 5 (1) | 1 |
Informed consent is the backbone of patient care. Genetic testing has long required patient consent and patients have had a "right not to know" the results. However, as 21st century medicine now begins to use the tools of ...
Genetics May 16, 2013 | 5 / 5 (1) | 3 |
Saudi Arabia said Friday it would send samples taken from animals possibly infected with a deadly SARS-like virus to the United States for testing in a bid to find the source of disease.
1 hour ago | not rated yet | 0
(Medical Xpress)—A new study by researchers in the US has shown that an ancient virus can be modified to help in the fight against the simian immunodeficiency virus SIV, which is the equivalent in monkeys ...
1 hour ago | 5 / 5 (2) | 0 |
New research presented today shows that formation of new neurons in the hippocampus - a brain region known for its importance in learning and remembering - could cause forgetting of old memories by causing a reorganization ...
1 hour ago | not rated yet | 0
Ernie Pyle – an iconic war correspondent in World War II – reportedly said "There are no atheists in foxholes." A new joint study between two brothers at Cornell and Virginia Wesleyan found that only ...
1 hour ago | 3 / 5 (1) | 0
(Medical Xpress)—Regulating the distribution of power in neurons is done by a system that makes the national electric grid look simple by comparison. Each neuron has several thousand mitochondria confined ...
17 hours ago | 4.9 / 5 (7) | 0 |