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Researchers Discover How Common Obesity Genes Contribute To Weight Gain

Update Date: May 25, 2014 05:42 AM EDT

Researchers have discovered how a gene commonly linked to obesity-FTO-contributes to weight gain in some people. 

According to the study, variations in FTO indirectly affect the function of the primary cilium, a little understood hair-like appendage on brain and other cells. Eventually, specific abnormalities of cilium molecules increase the body weight. 

Researchers performed the experiment on mice and suggested that it might be possible to modify obesity through interventions that change the function of the cilium. 

"If our findings are confirmed, they could explain how common genetic variants in the gene FTO affect human body weight and lead to obesity," said study leader Rudolph L. Leibel, MD, the Christopher J. Murphy Memorial Professor of Diabetes Research, professor of pediatrics and medicine, and co-director of the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center at CUMC, in the press release. "The better we can understand the molecular machinery of obesity, the better we will be able to manipulate these mechanisms and help people lose weight."

Previously, researchers proved that common variants in the fat mass and obesity-associated protein gene, also known as FTO, are associated with increased body weight. However specifically how the alteration took place was little known.

"Studies have shown that knocking out FTO in mice doesn't necessarily lead to obesity, and not all humans with FTO variants are obese," said Dr. Leibel. "Something else is going on at this location that we were missing."

"Overall," added Dr. Leibel, "our findings open a window onto the possible role of the primary cilium in common forms of obesity."

The study has been published in the journal Cell Metabolism. 

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