Researchers Find Obesity Master Switch Gene

A team of scientists have found a gene that may control the behavior of the other genes found inside fat cells in the body which may then lead to obesity. The said gene, which is also linked to type 2 diabetes and cholesterol levels may, in fact, be the master switch. The study was published in the May 15 issue of Nature Genetics.

The team, which was comprised of researchers from the King’s College London and the University of Oxford took part in a study that was one part of a large multi-national collaboration known as the MuTHER study. The team was includes researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute and the University of Geneva.

The said gene, known as KLF14, has already been linked to type 2 diabetes and cholesterol levels in people. But the role that it plays in controlling other genes located further away remained unknown until it was discovered only recently.

The team of researchers examined over 20,000 genes found in subcutaneous fat biopsies coming from 800 UK female twin volunteers. The researchers have found a possible association between the KLF14 gene and the expression levels of a number of genes found in fat tissue located at quite a distance. The researchers reasoned out that the KLF14 gene may be acting as a master switch to control those distant genes. The role was further confirmed by examining another independent sample of 600 subcutaneous fat biopsies, this time from volunteers hailing from Iceland.

Those genes that were known to be controlled by KLF14 are those that are linked to a number of metabolic traits, which include body-mass index, cholesterol, glucose as well as insulin levels.

“This is the first major study that shows how small changes in one master regulator gene can cause a cascade of other metabolic effects in other genes,” according to Prof. Tim Spector, a researcher at the Department of Twin Research at King’s and the head of the MuTHER project. “This has great therapeutic potential particularly as by studying large detailed populations such as the twins we hope to find more of these regulators,” he further added.


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