Study: Missing DNA linked to childhood obesity

14:48, December 08, 2009      

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British researchers have found edidence that lack of particular chunks of DNA, which kicks hunger into overdrive, will cause severe childhood obesity, according to media reports on Tuesday.

In the study, which was published in the journal Nature on Dec. 6, the researchers checked the DNA of 300 severely obese children for mutations in copy number variants (CNVs), large segments of DNA that are either copied or missing in our genes, and which scientists suggest play a vital role in the development of genetic diseases.

They found evidence that several rare deletions may promote obesity.

That deletion, on chromosome 16, apparently causes trouble because it removes a gene that the brain needs to respond to the appetite-controlling hormone leptin, said Dr. Sadaf Farooqi of Cambridge University.

The finding has implications for the diagnosis and social care of severely obese children, whose condition may incorrectly be attributed to abuse by their parents or carers.

While scientists have previously discovered particular genes that promote obesity when damaged, the new work looked at larger chunks of DNA that can span several genes. The chromosome 16 deletion includes nine genes.

Farooqi said that their findings show that severe obesity is a "serious medical issue that deserves scientific investigation".

"It adds to the growing weight of evidence that a wide range of genetic variants can produce a strong drive to eat," he added, explaining that they hoped this discovery will change "attitudes and practices amongst those with professional responsibility for the health and well-being of children."

Source: Xinhuanet/Agencies
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