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Scientists discover gene mutation that can lead to obesity

Published on 19/03/2012

Scientists have discovered why a mutation in a particular gene can lead to obesity, by observing its effects in mice.

Scientists believe they have found the ‘gluttony gene’ which fails to tell your brain when you are full. Georgetown University Medical Center researchers discovered that mice ate up to 80 per cent more food than normal if they had the particular mutated gene.

Hunger and satiety- the sensation of ‘feeling full’- are governed by a balance of hormonal and neuronal signals. Hormones leptin and insulin, released in the body after a meal, play a key role in this process.

The brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) gene is thought to cause the transmission of these chemical signals. But if this gene is mutated, the connection between the hormones and the brain are not made and the cravings for the food continue. One of the researchers Prof Baoji Xu said:

"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."

Writing in Nature Medicine, researchers observed that mice with the mutated BDNF gene consumed up to 80 per cent more food than normal.

Now, scientists say that the discovery might open up new strategies to help the brain control body weight, and perhaps even find a drug that can stimulate the BDNF gene.

However, obesity can be prevented by living a healthy lifestyle. People who are worried about their weight should exercise the recommended 30 minutes and eat five portions of fruit and veg a day.

For access to new drugs not available on the NHS, compare health insurance policies online now and be covered on your private medical insurance.

© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2012


Categories:  Medical
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