Scientists Discover Orthologues of 14 Human Genes That Can Cause Obesity in Worm Model; Also Identify 3 That Promote Weight Gain When Silenced

There is promising news in the effort to develop drugs to treat obesity: University of Virginia (UVA) scientists have identified 14 genes that can cause, and 3 that can prevent, weight gain. The findings pave the way for treatments to combat a health problem that affects more than 40% of American adults. “We know of hundreds of gene variants that are more likely to show up in individuals suffering obesity and other diseases. But ‘more likely to show up’ does not mean causing the disease. This uncertainty is a major barrier to exploit the power of population genomics to identify targets to treat or cure obesity. To overcome this barrier, we developed an automated pipeline to simultaneously test hundreds of genes for a causal role in obesity. Our first round of experiments uncovered more than a dozen genes that cause, and three genes that prevent, obesity,” said Eyleen O’Rourke (photo), PhD, of UVA’s College of Arts & Sciences, the School of Medicine’s Department of Cell Biology and the Robert M. Berne Cardiovascular Research Center. “We anticipate that our approach and the new genes we uncovered will accelerate the development of treatments to reduce the burden of obesity.” Results of the new study were published online on September 7, 2021 in PLOS Genetics. The open-access article is titled “Genes in Human Obesity Loci Are Causal Obesity Genes in C. elegans.”

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