Gene sequence that can make half of us fatter is discovered

May 4, 2008

A gene sequence linked to an expanding waist line, weight gain and a tendency to develop type 2 diabetes has been discovered as part of a study published today in the journal Nature Genetics.

The study also shows that the gene sequence is significantly more common in those with Indian Asian than European ancestry. The research, which was funded by the British Heart Foundation, could lead to better ways of treating obesity.

Scientists from Imperial College London and other international institutions have discovered that the sequence is associated with a 2cm expansion in waist circumference, a 2kg gain in weight, and a tendency to become resistant to insulin, which can lead to type 2 diabetes. The sequence is found in 50% of the UK population.

“Until now, we have understood remarkably little about the genetic component of common problems linked with obesity, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes,” said Professor Jaspal Kooner, the paper’s senior author from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London. “Finding such a close association between a genetic sequence and significant physical effects is very important, especially when the sequence is found in half the population.”

The study shows that the sequence is a third more common in those with Indian Asian than in those with European ancestry. This could provide a possible genetic explanation for the particularly high levels of obesity and insulin resistance in Indian Asians, who make up 25% of the world’s population, but who are expected to account for 40% of global cardiovascular disease by 2020.

The new gene sequence sits close to a gene called MC4R, which regulates energy levels in the body by influencing how much we eat and how much energy we expend or conserve. The researchers believe the sequence is involved in controlling the MC4R gene, which has also been implicated in rare forms of extreme childhood obesity.

Previous research on finding the genetic causes of obesity has identified other energy-conserving genes. Combining knowledge about the effects of all these genes could pave the way for transforming how obesity is managed.

“A better understanding of the genes behind problems such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease means that we will be in a good position to identify people whose genetic inheritance makes them most susceptible,” added Professor Kooner. “We can’t change their genetic inheritance. But we can focus on preventative measures, including life-style factors such as diet and exercise, and identifying new drug targets to help reduce the burden of disease.“

The research was carried out as part of the London Life Sciences Population (LOLIPOP) study of environmental and genetic causes of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity in approximately 30,000 UK citizens of Indian Asian and European ancestry. The scientists looked at the association between unique genetic markers, called single nuclear polymorphisms, and physical traits linked with obesity, such as waist circumference and insulin resistance.

“The studies we carry out through LOLIPOP are providing unique and important data,” explained lead author Dr John Chambers from the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Imperial College London. “The number of people involved, the comparisons between two ancestries, and the detail with which we can explore genetic and environmental effects are helping us identify crucial linkages.”

Source: Imperial College London

Explore further: Researchers quantify breast cancer risk based on rare variants and background risk

Related Stories

Researchers quantify breast cancer risk based on rare variants and background risk

October 22, 2017
Rare variants combined with background genetic risk factors may account for many unexplained cases of familial breast cancer, and knowing the specific genes involved could inform choice of prevention and treatment strategies, ...

Maternal diet may program child for disease risk, but better nutrition later can change that

October 20, 2017
Research has shown that a mother's diet during pregnancy, particularly one that is high-fat, may program her baby for future risk of certain diseases such as diabetes. A new study from nutrition researchers at the University ...

Online resource enables open data sharing for rare Mendelian diseases

October 18, 2017
MyGene2, a new open data resource, helps patients with rare genetic conditions, clinicians, and researchers share information, connect with one another, and enable faster gene discovery, according to results presented at ...

Researchers report startling glaucoma protein discovery

October 20, 2017
A discovery in a protein associated with glaucoma was so unheard of that for over two years, researchers ran it through a gauntlet of lab tests and published a new research paper on it. The tests validated what they initially ...

New assay may boost targeted treatment of non-Hodgkin lymphoma

October 17, 2017
Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) is an aggressive cancer and the most frequently diagnosed non-Hodgkin lymphoma worldwide (nearly 40% of cases). Recent advancements indicate that both the prognosis and choice of treatment ...

A new genetic marker accounts for up to 1.4 percent of cases of hereditary colon cancer

October 11, 2017
Researchers from the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL) have found a new genetic marker that would explain up to 1.4 percent of inherited colon cancer cases not related to mutations currently associated with ...

Recommended for you

New gene editing approach for alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency shows promise

October 20, 2017
A new study by scientists at UMass Medical School shows that using a technique called "nuclease-free" gene editing to correct cells with the mutation that causes a rare liver disease leads to repopulation of the diseased ...

Researchers find evidence of DNA damage in veterans with Gulf War illness

October 19, 2017
Researchers say they have found the "first direct biological evidence" of damage in veterans with Gulf War illness to DNA within cellular structures that produce energy in the body.

Researchers drill down into gene behind frontotemporal lobar degeneration

October 19, 2017
Seven years ago, Penn Medicine researchers showed that mutations in the TMEM106B gene significantly increased a person's risk of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD), the second most common cause of dementia in those ...

Genetic variants associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder identified

October 18, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—An international team of researchers has found evidence of four genes that can be linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In their paper published in the journal Nature Communications, the group ...

New clues to treat Alagille syndrome from zebrafish

October 18, 2017
A new study led by researchers at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) identifies potential new therapeutic avenues for patients with Alagille syndrome. The discovery, published in Nature Communications, ...

An architect gene is involved in the assimilation of breast milk

October 17, 2017
A family of "architect" genes called Hox coordinates the formation of organs and limbs during embryonic life. Geneticists from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Star_Gazer
2 / 5 (1) May 04, 2008
so LOLIPOP can make you thin?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.