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Gene could help prevent carbohydrate-related obesity

23 March 2009

By Rosie Beauchamp

Appeared in BioNews 500

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have published a study in the journal Cell that outlines their identification of a gene that is critical in turning carbohydrates into fat. The gene, called DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK), is a potential key to the prevention of obesity linked to the over-consumption of high carbohydrate foods, according to the study's authors.

It was found in the study that mice in which the gene DNA-PK had been deactivated were able to eat all the carbohydrates they wanted and still have 40 per cent less body fat than the mice in which DNA-PK was functioning.

Usually, after a meal of carbohydrates such as bread or pasta the levels of blood glucose (the digested form of carbohydrates) increase. The rise in blood glucose causes the secretion of insulin which helps the body covert glucose into energy. The excess glucose, which is not burned in energy, is usually converted to fatty acids and stored as fat.

The discovery of the DNA-PK gene may help to explain why some people can eat whatever they want without putting on weight, while others seem almost predisposed to obesity. The discovery of DNA-PK fills in the missing link by uncovering the pathway by which the conversion of excess glucose to fatty acids takes place.

Professor Hei Sook Sol, an author of the study said: 'It turns out the DNA-PK is critical to a metabolic process we have been trying to understand for many years... Identifying this signalling pathway involving DNA-PK brings us one step forwards in understanding obesity resulting from a diet of high carbohydrates, and could possibly serve as a potential pharmacological target for obesity prevention.'

The Daily Telegraph | 19 March 2009
ScienceDaily | 23 March 2009


07 April 2014 - by James Brooks 
Obesity might not simply be a matter of overeating or heightened appetite but at least partially down to how we metabolise food, a study says...
14 September 2009 - by Dr Will Fletcher 
Mice that have been engineered to lack a gene called IKKE are protected from obesity, new research has found. IKKE, a normal immune system gene, appears to act as the main control centre for obesity in the laboratory mice and when it is successfully blocked the animals remained thin even when fed a diet high in fat. The researchers, from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, US, do not know whether IKKE is linked to obesity in humans but have speculated that, if it is, new trea...

02 March 2009 - by Dr Charlotte Maden 
New research into the role played by the FTO gene in obesity has been published in the journal Nature, showing that the gene may function in metabolism. The FTO (fat-mass and obesity associated) gene has been linked to obesity in the past, which has provoked much interest...
19 January 2009 - by Adam Fletcher 
A new study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, may explain why certain genetic variations increase a person's risk of obesity. Professor Jane Wardle and team at University College London, UK, have demonstrated associations between particular variants of the FTO gene, and the likelihood of overeating...
16 December 2008 - by Dr Charlotte Maden 
People who carry a specific variant of a gene have a preference to eat more fattening foods, and eat up to 100 more calories per meal, say scientists at the University of Dundee, Scotland. A study investigated the eating habits of 100 children aged four to ten...

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