Researchers report that
they have identified a gene that is tied to severe obesity.
They say their findings
could lead to new treatments for obesity.
The team studied an Israeli
Arab family whose members were severely obese. They found that the family
members had a mutation in a gene that produces a protein called CEP19.
When the researchers
deleted this gene in mice, the rodents became obese and developed diabetes.
They also had increased appetites and burned less energy.
Scientists note, however,
that research done in animals often fails to produce similar results in humans.
The study was published online
in the American Journal of Human Genetics.
Regulating nutritional status
"Starting with gene
discovery in a single family with morbid obesity, these studies led to the
identification of a gene that seems to be fundamental to regulating nutritional
status [body weight]," study co-senior author Dr John Martignetti, of the
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in New York City, said in a journal
"This gene is shown to
be present not only in humans and mice, but also in the simplest known
single-cell animal," he said. "Nature considers this gene so
important that it has preserved its structure for more than 700 million
The specific role of the
CEP19 protein in maintaining a balance between leanness and obesity remains
unknown. Further research is needed to determine how the protein affects
appetite control, the amount of calories the body burns and insulin
sensitivity, the study authors said.
Previous research has
indicated that genes play a role in 40% to 90% of cases of obesity, according
to the news release.
The US National Heart,
Lung, and Blood Institute has more about overweight