Scientists identify genes involved in storing fat
Researchers funded by the Wellcome Trust have identified several genes in fat tissue that may lead us to retain fat unnecessarily in the body. The study, using a mouse model, may explain why some people carry more weight than others even when they have similar diets because of genes that encourage fat storage.
Scientists at the University of Edinburgh compared fat tissue from mice that had been selectively bred for many generations to be increasingly fat or thin, and as a result had acquired weight-related genes. The research, published in the journal ’PLoS One’, cross-referenced thousands of genes and pinpointed genes that prevented the breakdown of fat, which were more prevalent in the fat tissue of the overweight mice than in the fat tissue of the lean mice.
Mice were then bred from one overweight parent and one lean parent. Those among the offspring that were born overweight were found to have the same active genes as the fatter parent mice - an indication that hereditary factors play a part in fat storage and can increase the likelihood of putting on weight.
The research also found that the thin offspring had an added protection against weight gain. When both sets of mice were given fatty foods, the thin offspring seemed able to break down fatty tissue more easily than the heavier mice, suggesting they had inherited ’lean genes’.
Dr Nik Morton, a Wellcome Trust Research Career Development Fellow at the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Cardiovascular Science, said: “While genes controlling appetite are known to be important in determining our fatness, our study shows that genes switched on in the fat tissue itself can play a role in determining why some people tend to hang onto their fat more easily than others. While this supports the idea that genetic factors are linked to obesity, exercise and diet are still important for healthy lifestyles and can prevent most people from becoming obese.”
Morton NM et al. A stratified transcriptomics analysis of polygenic fat and lean mouse adipose tissues identifies novel candidate obesity genes. PLoS ONE 2011;6(9):e23944.
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