Scientists find how ‘obesity gene’ makes people fat

Scientists find how ‘obesity gene’ makes people fat

2:49pm EDT

By Ben Hirschler

LONDON (Reuters) – Scientists have unraveled how a gene long associated with obesity makes people fat by triggering increased hunger, opening up potential new ways to fight a growing global health problem. A common variation in the FTO gene affects one in six of the population, making them 70 percent more likely to become obese – but until now experts did not know why. Using a series of tests, a British-led research team said they had found that people with the variation not only had higher levels of the “hunger hormone” ghrelin in their blood but also increased sensitivity to the chemical in their brains.“It’s a double hit,” said Rachel Batterham from University College London, who led the study, which was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation on Monday.

The discovery follows studies of blood samples from people after meals, combined with functional magnetic resonance imaging of volunteers’ brains and cell-based studies looking at ghrelin production at a molecular level.

Batterham said the work provided new insights and possible new leads for treatment, since some experimental drugs are known to suppress ghrelin and could be particularly effective if targeted at patients with the obesity-risk variant of the gene.

Previous research has also shown that ghrelin can be reduced by eating a high-protein diet.

Steve Bloom of Imperial College London, who was not involved in the study, said the FTO gene only explained a small part of the obesity epidemic but the latest discovery was “an important step forward” in unraveling the various factors involved.

The prevalence of obesity is increasing worldwide at an alarming rate and both developed and developing countries are affected. Obesity is a major risk factor for diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.

At least 2.8 million adults die each year as a result of being overweight or obese and more than 40 million children under the age of five were overweight in 2011, according to the World Health Organization.

Developing effective obesity drugs has been a challenge for drugmakers, although some new medicines are now coming through.

After a gap of more than a decade, two new obesity drugs – Vivus Inc’s Qsymia and Arena Pharmaceuticals Inc’s Belviq – were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last year.

Belviq’s launch was delayed, however, pending a final classification on its risk of abuse and Qsymia’s sales have been disappointing, triggering fierce criticism from Vivus’s largest shareholder.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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