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'Fat gene' identified by scientists

A ‘fat gene has long been considered to be a myth and an excuse people use to explain obesity, but at long last scientists believe they have inde...

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|Mar 19|magazine6 min read

A ‘fat gene’ has long been considered to be a myth and an excuse people use to explain obesity, but at long last scientists believe they have indentified one.

Researchers from Georgetown University Medical Center in America believe a mutation in a particular gene can result in gluttony and uncontrollable eating habits.

It is thought the affected gene stops certain signals being sent to the brain, which means it doesn’t recognise when the body is full.

There are now hopes the discovery will revolutionise treatments for obesity.

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After eating, insulin and leptin hormones are released which are supposed to trigger a satiety response in the brain.

However, the researchers are claiming a shortened version of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) gene prevents these hormones from reaching the brain.

As a result, people with the mutant BDNF gene never feel full or satisfied after a meal, prompting them to continue eating.

This theory was proved during an animal study which investigated the effects of both short and long versions of the gene.

In mice, those with the mutated short version of the gene ate up to 80 percent more food than those with the normal longer version. 

Commenting on the findings, Baoji Xu, one of the study’s senior researchers, said: “This is the first time protein synthesis in dendrites, tree-like extensions of neurons, has been found to be critical for control of weight.”

“If there is a problem with the Bdnf gene, neurons can't talk to each other and the leptin and insulin signals are ineffective, and appetite is not modified.”

He added: “This discovery may open up novel strategies to help the brain control body weight.”

“We have opened the door to both new avenues in basic research and clinical therapies, which is very exciting.”

The results of the study have been published in the journal Nature Medicine.

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