"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

How newly discovered genes may very well be linked to obesity

August 8, 2023 – Newly discovered genes could explain differences in body fat percentage between obese men and girls and in addition why some people turn into obese in childhood.

The identification of specific genes is further evidence that obesity is partly biologically determined. Researchers hope the findings will result in effective treatments and, within the meantime, contribute to the understanding that there are lots of forms of obesity which can be brought on by a mixture of genes and environmental aspects.

Although the study isn't the primary to point to specific genes, “we were quite surprised by the putative function of some of the genes we identified,” Lena R. Kaisinger, the study's lead researcher, wrote in an email. For example, the genes also control cell death and influence how cells reply to DNA damage, said Kaisinger, a doctoral student within the MRC Epidemiology Unit on the University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine, UK.

Researchers aren't sure why genes accountable for height perform this dual function, which opens recent avenues for future research.

The Gene sequencing study was published online within the journal on August 2 Cell genomics.

Differences between men and women

The next time you desire to impress someone along with your scientific knowledge, perhaps you might mention in casual conversation that researchers have just discovered five recent genes in women and two recent genes in men which can be related to a better body mass index (BMI).

If your answer is “Absolutely not,” reassure them that that is true.

If you desire to go further, write these on the palm of your hand: They are genes generally known as DIDO1, KIAA1109, MC4R, PTPRG and SLC12A5 in women and MC4R and SLTM in men. Depending on the dimensions of your hand, you could also need to indicate that individuals who remember being obese as a baby usually tend to have rare genetic changes in two other genes, OBSCN and MADD.

“The key point is that when you see real genes with real gene names, it really reinforces the idea that obesity is due to genetic causes,” says Lee Kaplan, MD, PhD, director of the Obesity and Metabolism Institute in Boston, who was not involved within the research.

Kaisinger, co-author Katherine A. Kentistou, PhD, lead creator John RB Perry, PhD, and colleagues discovered these significant genetic differences while examining the genomes of about 420,000 people stored within the UK Biobank, a large biomedical database. The researchers selected to look at the genes by sex and age because these are “two areas that we still know very little about,” Kaisinger said.

“We know that different types of obesity are associated with different ages of life,” said Kaplan, who can be past president of the Obesity Society, a 2,800-member skilled group that studies the science, treatment and prevention of obesity. “But what they've done now is find genes that are associated with specific subtypes of obesity… some are more common in one sex and others are more common at different stages of life, including early-onset obesity.”

The future is already here

There are already treatments for obesity based on an individual’s genes. For example, in June 2022, the FDA approved Setmelanotide (Imcivree) for weight control in adults and kids over 6 years of age with certain genetic markers.

Although setmelanotide is encouraging for Kaisinger and colleagues, it continues to be too early to translate current research findings into clinical obesity tests and potential treatments, she said.

The “holy grail,” Kaplan said, is a future wherein persons are tested for a specific genetic profile and their doctor can then tell them, “You are probably most susceptible to this type, so we will treat you with a special drug designed for people with this phenotype.”

Kaplan added: “That’s exactly what we’re trying to do.”

In the long run, Kaisinger and his colleagues plan to repeat the study in larger and more diverse populations. They also plan to reverse the standard study process, which normally starts in animals after which moves on to humans. “We plan to use the most promising gene candidates in mouse models to learn more about their function and how exactly their dysfunction leads to obesity,” Kaisinger said.

The link between genetics and obesity is an lively area of ​​research. Stay tuned for more insights into how your specific obesity type might fit along with your genes.