Genetic variants responsible for obesity

August 11th, 2008 - 10:47 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Aug 11 (IANS) Researchers have found that genetic variants are responsible for body shape, based on a study of 228 women. The increasing prevalence of obesity and related health problems worldwide has prompted efforts to identify genetic mechanisms that control fat storage.

Maria De Luca led a University of Alabama team that identified candidate genes using different strains of the fruit fly Drosophila.

Based on the results of these experiments, researchers tested three common variations in the human LAMA5 gene and discovered two gene variants that were associated with body shape, one in women of European-American descent and the other affecting women of African-American descent.

“We found one variant to be associated with weight and lean mass in both ethnic groups. This variant was also associated with height, total fat mass and HDL-cholesterol, but only in European-American women. A different variant was associated with triglyceride levels and HDL-cholesterol in African-American women,” said De Luca.

The use of flies in a study of human obesity may seem strange, but according to De Luca “insects store fat like mammals do, as lipid droplets accumulated in the fat body, the functional equivalent of both mammalian liver and white adipose tissue.

“Drosophila share many components of fat biosynthesis, degradation and regulation with humans, including many of those implicated in diabetes and obesity.”

The findings were published Sunday in the open access journal BMC Genetics.

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