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Weight Loss Surgery Changes Genes for the Better, Study Reveals

Update Date: Apr 12, 2013 08:39 AM EDT
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Not only can weight loss surgery reduce body weight, it can also lead to gene-expression alterations in obese individuals, a new study as revealed.

Scientists have long puzzled over the link between gastric bypass surgery and early remission of type 2 diabetes, and the latest findings published April 11 in the journal Cell Reports may offer an explanation.

The study found evidence of gene-expression alterations in individuals who underwent weight loss surgery compared with obese individuals who did not.

"We provide evidence that in severely obese people, the levels of specific genes that control how fat is burned and stored in the body are changed to reflect poor metabolic health," senior author Professor Juleen Zierath, of the Karolinska Institutet, in Stockholm, Sweden, said in a statement.

"After surgery, the levels of these genes are restored to a healthy state, which mirrors weight loss and coincides with overall improvement in metabolism," Zierath explained.

The study found that weight loss after surgery causes changes in DNA modifications that control gene expression in response to the environment. Researchers found correlations between surgery-induced weight loss and changes in methylation, or chemical markings, on two genes that control glucose and fat metabolism (PGC-1alpha and PDK4).

Researchers conclude that the "environment", such as food intake or weight loss, can affect gene expression through this mechanism.

"The novelty of our work originates with the finding that DNA methylation is altered by weight loss," first author Romain Barrès, of the University of Copenhagen, in Denmark, said in a statement.

Researchers said the next step is to design medicine that can mimic this weight-loss-associated control of gene regulation. 

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