For anorexia nervosa, researchers implicate genetic locus on chromosome 12

May 12, 2017
A depiction of the double helical structure of DNA. Its four coding units (A, T, C, G) are color-coded in pink, orange, purple and yellow. Credit: NHGRI

A landmark study led by UNC School of Medicine researchers has identified the first genetic locus for anorexia nervosa and has revealed that there may also be metabolic underpinnings to this potentially deadly illness.

The study, which is the most powerful genetic study of conducted to date, included genome-wide analysis of DNA from 3,495 individuals with nervosa and 10,982 unaffected individuals.

If particular genetic variations are significantly more frequent in people with a disorder compared to unaffected people, the variations are said to be "associated" with the disorder. Associated genetic variations can serve as powerful pointers to regions of the where disorder-causing problems reside, according to the National Human Genome Research Institute.

"We identified one genome-wide significant locus for anorexia nervosa on chromosome 12, in a region previously shown to be associated with type 1 diabetes and autoimmune disorders," said lead investigator, Cynthia Bulik, PhD, FAED, founding director of the UNC Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders and a professor at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden.

"We also calculated genetic correlations—the extent to which various traits and are caused by the same genes," said Bulik.

"Anorexia nervosa was significantly genetically correlated with neuroticism and schizophrenia, supporting the idea that anorexia is indeed a psychiatric illness."

"But, unexpectedly, we also found strong genetic correlations with various metabolic features including body composition (BMI) and insulin-glucose metabolism. This finding encourages us to look more deeply at how metabolic factors increase the risk for anorexia nervosa," Bulik said.

This study was conducted by the Psychiatric Genetics Consortium Eating Disorders Working Group - an international collaboration of researchers at multiple institutions worldwide.

"In the era of team science, we brought over 220 scientists and clinicians together to achieve this large sample size. Without this collaboration we would never have been able to discover that anorexia has both psychiatric and metabolic roots," said Gerome Breen, PhD, of King's College London.

"Working with large data sets allows us to make discoveries that would never be possible in smaller studies," said Laramie Duncan, PhD, of Stanford University, who served as lead analyst on the project.

The researchers are continuing to increase sample sizes and see this as the beginning of genomic discovery in anorexia nervosa. Viewing anorexia nervosa as both a psychiatric and metabolic condition could ignite interest in developing or repurposing medications for its treatment where currently none exist.

Explore further: Religiosity does not increase the risk of anorexia nervosa

Related Stories

Religiosity does not increase the risk of anorexia nervosa

April 11, 2017

Religiosity has been associated with various forms of fasting and self-starvation for thousands of years. Many believe that extreme religiosity can be a risk factor of anorexia nervosa. However, a recent population study ...

Global search for anorexia nervosa genes

March 25, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—Flinders University Professor Tracey Wade is collaborating with researchers worldwide in a global effort to identify genes that cause eating disorders.

New approach to diagnosing anorexia nervosa

January 9, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- A new approach for diagnosing patients with anorexia nervosa has been developed at the University of Sydney. The approach could have a significant impact on the treatment and recovery of sufferers, as ...

Recommended for you

What percentage of ALS is genetic?

June 21, 2017

Up to 90 percent of people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) report that they have no family history of the disease. Now, new research has found approximately 17 percent of such ALS cases may be caused by a gene mutation, ...

Gene mutation linked to psychosis in Icelandic family

June 20, 2017

(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers from Iceland, Finland and Germany has found evidence of a gene mutation in a large family in Iceland that explains why so many of them suffer from psychosis. In their paper published ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

BubbaNicholson
1 / 5 (1) May 12, 2017
Anorexia nervosa is caused by a pheromone, just as anorexia is caused by pheromones in other species, duh. The condition diminishes fertility without actually causing puberty delay, as secondary sexual characteristics linger.
Provide 250mg of healthy adult male facial skin surface lipid pheromone and observe in isolation for 40 days. As the suspected axillary pheromone is the same one suspected of causing SIDS, and since SIDS responds favorably to oscillating fans, Anorexics at a minimum should be kept under oscillating fans to break up pheromone plumes. Prevent female proximity in the same atmosphere as the AN sufferer. Covering the AN patient's axillary glands with petroleum jelly may diminish symptoms.

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.