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'Gluttony gene' stops mice feeling full

26 March 2012

By Dr Kimberley Bryon-Dodd

Appeared in BioNews 650

A mutation in a gene linked to obesity causes mice to eat up to 80 percent more than normal, a study suggests.

After eating, hormones send signals to the brain to let it know it's full. However, scientists found that in mice with a faulty version of the BDNF gene, these messages were 'blocked'.

'If there is a problem with the BDNF gene, neurons can't talk to each other, and the leptin and insulin [hormone] signals are ineffective, and appetite is not modified', said researcher Professor Baoji Xu from the Georgetown Medical Centre in the USA.

When the team monitored the eating habits of mice with and without the mutation, they found males were twice as heavy as their normal counterparts, and females were 2.7 times heavier. This was to do with them over-eating, rather than a reduction in their activity levels.

An additional part of the study, published in Nature Medicine, looked at what happened when leptin, often referred to as the 'hunger hormone' due to its role in regulating appetite, was injected into the mice. While the hormone had no effect on the mice with the BDNF mutation, there was a 26 percent reduction in amount of food eaten in those with a non-mutated gene.

The researchers now hope to use these results to help control obesity in humans.

Professor Xu said: 'This discovery may open up novel strategies to help the brain control body weight'.

However, any future treatment is still a long way off. Although we do have the BDNF gene, the mutation examined in this study is rare in humans and it cannot be assumed that human bodies react in exactly the same way as mice.

Tam Fry, spokesman for the National Obesity Forum, told the Daily Mail that 'fixing the mutation may not be plain sailing' and 'even when its fixed in mice it will be years before his solution can he be used in humans'.


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22 July 2013 - by Julianna Photopoulos 
A gene known to be linked to a much higher risk of obesity has been found to affect levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin, according to an international group of scientists...
16 April 2012 - by Oliver Timmis 
Two new genetic variants that could increase the risk of childhood obesity have been identified in the largest ever genome-wide study of the disease...

19 March 2012 - by Dr Linda Wijlaars 
A gene known to protect from cancer might also prevent obesity, scientists say. The researchers had set out to search for a link between the Pten gene and a longer lifespan in mice, but to their surprise, a double dose of the gene also led the mice to be thinner than their normal counterparts...
07 November 2011 - by Dr Marianne Kennedy 
When it comes to our weight, there is no need to wallow in the gene pool. Scientists have found that physical activity lessens the link between genes and obesity...
19 September 2011 - by Mehmet Fidanboylu 
Scientists in Scotland have discovered a number of genes that are highly expressed in fat tissue and lead to storage of excess fat in mice. The findings, reported in PLoS ONE, could explain why some people carry more weight than others despite sharing similar diets...
23 May 2011 - by Dr Kimberley Bryon-Dodd 
Scientists say they have found a 'master regulator' gene, KLF14, which controls how active some fat metabolism genes are in your fat cells....

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