Genetic Sequences to Protect from Obesity

Portrait of My FatherCambridge Professor Sadaf Farooqi calls it a tour de force of genetics. Researchers from Regeneron and nine international research centers sequenced genetic exomes in 645,626 persons. With this painstaking research, they’ve found genetic sequences that protect some people from obesity.

These sequences hard wire a person for leanness. In a world that prizes a lean body type, people who inherit these genes are born on third base but often think they’ve hit a triple. Some call it thin privilege.

Cutting the Risk by Half

In this research, Parsa Akbari and colleagues zeroed in on 16 genes that influence BMI. Further, they found that five of them coded for proteins on the surface of human cells. These are G protein-coupled receptors.

Moreover, all of these genes express themselves in the hypothalamus. That is the region of the brain that plays a huge role in regulating hunger and metabolism. One of those gene variants – GPR75 – had the biggest effect on BMI. In fact, inactivating one copy of that gene cut the risk of obesity in half.

A Pathway to Better Treatment

Luca Lotta was senior author of this research. He explained that it may open the way for better anti-obesity therapies, saying:

“We need to understand how this pathway works, what its impact is on appetite, food intake, and energy balance and expenditure. We’re incredibly excited to have found this association, and we’re committed to understanding if this pathway can be modified therapeutically.”

These genetic sequences are relatively rare, but finding them gives scientists important clues about obesity. Those clues will lead to better therapies for obesity and put control of this disease within our reach.

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Portrait of My Father, painting by Salvador Dali / WikiArt

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July 6, 2021