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Scientists find gene link to obesity

16th May 2011

Scientists have discovered that a gene associated with diabetes and cholesterol acts as a "master switch" which regulates other genes found in fat in the body.

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The study by British researchers, which was published in Nature Genetics,  said that this controlling gene could be the basis for treatments against obesity and heart disease.

"This is the first major study that shows how small changes in one master regulator gene can cause a cascade of other metabolic effects in other genes," said Tim Spector of King's College London, who headed the research team.

More than half a billion people - one in 10 adults - around the world are obese and this number has doubled since the 1980s.

Spector's team looked at over 20,000 genes taken from fat samples from beneath the skin of 800 female twin participants.

They discovered that the KLF14 gene and the 'levels' of multiple genes from fat tissue were linked, revealing that KLF14 works as a 'master switch' to regulate these genes.

The researchers were then able to confirm their results by testing 600 fat samples from another group of Icelandic volunteers.

In their report, the team said that genes which were discovered to be regulated by KLF14 were associated with a number of 'metabolic traits', including BMI, obesity, and insulin levels.

"KLF14 seems to act as a master switch controlling processes that connect changes in the behavior of subcutaneous fat to disturbances in muscle and liver that contribute to diabetes and other conditions," said Mark McCarthy from Britain's Oxford University, who also contributed to the research.

"We are working hard...to understand these processes and how we can use this information to improve treatment of these conditions," he added.

 

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