Scientists Find Obesity Gene; It May Aid in Weight Control

By Compiled From News Services | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), December 1, 1994 | Go to article overview

Scientists Find Obesity Gene; It May Aid in Weight Control


Compiled From News Services, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


After a 40-year search, scientists have found a gene for obesity in mice and a likely counterpart in humans. The findings someday could help people control their weight.

The scientists said the gene - dubbed "ob" for obese - is the first isolated one that clearly takes part in the normal process of regulating weight.

The gene appears to cause fat tissue to secrete a protein, which circulates through the bloodstream and eventually finds its way to a part of the brain that controls hunger and metabolism, said researcher Jeffrey Friedman.

There, the protein is believed to alert nerve cells to the presence of stored fat elsewhere in the body, enabling the brain to regulate eating behavior and fat storage.

But that system goes awry when the gene is flawed. Mice lacking a normal version of the gene get so obese that they weigh three times more than their siblings, Friedman said.

He and colleagues also found a human gene that strongly resembles the gene in mice, and it may play a similar role in humans, Friedman said. If so, the finding could open the door to a better understanding of how people control their weight, which in turn may lead to new treatments for obesity, he said. …

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