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Published:February 25th, 2009 12:35 EST
Scientists Unlock Mysteries Over the Gene Associated with Obesity

Scientists Unlock Mysteries Over the Gene Associated with Obesity

By Christopher HIllenbrand

Scientists and researchers at the University of Düsseldorf in Germany have demonstrated how the gene affiliated with excessive weight gain actually affects human physiology. Experiments conducted on lab mice, which are genetically affined to human beings, and human subjects have proven that the FTO gene does in fact contribute to obesity. The finding was originally published in the medical journal Nature.


During the studies, scientists found that mice without the FTO gene weren`t obese and had very little fatty tissue in general since their metabolic rates burned more calories compared to those with the genetic link. Although those with the gene exercised more and ate less, mice lacking the gene were still fitter relatively.


Their process consisted of deactivating the gene in the mice carrying the FTO variable to analyze the gene`s effects on obesity. The tests` results find that the FTO gene plays a crucial role in managing metabolism.


The new discovery only reinforces the tests showing the link between significant weight gain and the FTO gene already on record. Human test subjects that possess 1 of 2 versions of the gene were on average 7 pounds heavier than those sans the gene. The chances that a person with one of those variations of the gene would become obese were approximated to be 70 percent higher than those with other versions of FTO.


David Cameron-Smith, an expert on obesity from Deakin University in Australia remarked about the research`s impact on further obesity studies.

The human FTO gene has previously been shown to be linked to human obesity; however, this research helps unlock the complex interplay between factors expressed in the brain that control both appetite and metabolism. A cure, genetic or pharmaceutical, for human obesity is many years away although any new knowledge on how the brain controls hunger and growth will help solve the complex disease. 


From research over the past 20 years, obesity greatly increases the odds of developing Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease. And as the rates of people leading inactive lifestyles are on the rise worldwide, numbers of obese people are skyrocketing. Though illnesses related to obesity haven`t matched the figures quite yet, it`s only a matter of time when the epidemic will also pertain to those.


Recent estimates released by The World Health Organization categorizes close to 400 million individuals around the globe as obese. Though it`s merely a speculative figure, it is steadily increasing every year.