Subscribe to the BioNews newsletter for free

Login
Advanced Search

Search for
BioNews

Like the Progress Educational Trust on Facebook


 


 

Anorexia linked to genetic mutation

16 September 2013

By Simon Hazelwood-Smith

Appeared in BioNews 722

The eating disorder anorexia nervosa has been linked, somewhat unexpectedly, to variants of a gene involved in cholesterol regulation.

A study of over 3,000 people shows that versions of the gene EPHX2 are strongly associated with the condition. The findings suggest that the likelihood of developing anorexia may be tied to both genetic and social factors.

Professor Nicholas Schork of The Scripp Research Institute in California, USA, a senior investigator for the study, said: 'These findings point in a direction that probably no one would have considered taking before'.

Around one in 250 women and one in 2,000 men will develop anorexia nervosa during their lives, a 2004 report from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence suggests. Patients restrict their eating severely, often continuing to believe they are overweight despite being dangerously malnourished. The resulting severe emaciation can be fatal and some consider anorexia as one of the most lethal psychiatric diseases.

Anorexia was long considered to be caused by psychological or social factors such as stress, pressures at the onset of puberty and cultural pressures. But twin studies have suggested that genetic factors may be an important influence.

In this study researchers initially probed the genomes of 334 anorexia patients. After drawing up a list of more than 150 candidate genes already linked to feeding behaviour or metabolism, they found a few that showed statistical signs of a linkage with anorexia.

One of the strongest associations was with variations of EPHX2, which codes for an enzyme that regulates cholesterol metabolism. The link was confirmed after several replication studies.

'We thought that with further studies this EPHX2 finding might go away, or appear less compelling, but we just kept finding evidence to suggest that it plays a role in anorexia', said Professor Schork.

The data was also compared with data from long term heart disease research showing that mutations in EPHX2 can cause changes in the relationship between cholesterol levels and weight gain.

It is not yet known how disruption of cholesterol metabolism might contribute to development of anorexia. Some studies have found that patients with anorexia nervosa have elevated cholesterol levels, while other research suggests that elevated cholesterol levels are linked with heightened mood for some people.

Discussing potential mechanisms, Professor Schork said: 'The hypothesis would be that in some anorexics the normal metabolism of cholesterol is disrupted, which could influence their mood as well as their ability to survive despite severe caloric restriction'.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Daily Telegraph | 12 September 2013
 
Daily Mail | 12 September 2013
 
Molecular Psychiatry | 03 September 2013
 
Science Daily (press release) | 11 September 2013
 

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

08 July 2013 - by Dr Linda Wijlaars 
Two genetic variants that are involved in the stress response have been linked to postnatal depression.
04 March 2013 - by Dr Anna Cauldwell 
Five of the most common psychiatric disorders share genetic risk factors, an international study published in the Lancet has found...
29 November 2010 - by Dr Lux Fatimathas 
Several genetic markers associated with the psychiatric disorder anorexia nervosa (AN) have been identified. American researchers carried out the first, large-scale genome-wide association study (GWAS) for AN...
09 July 2004 - by BioNews 
US researchers have identified a genetic variation in mice that affects levels of the 'feel-good' brain chemical serotonin. The study, published in the journal Science, could shed light on why some people are prone to depression and other mood disorders. The findings could also help explain why some patients respond...

HAVE YOUR SAY
Be the first to have your say.

You need to or  to add comments.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions


- click here to enquire about using this story.

Published by the Progress Educational Trust

CROSSING FRONTIERS

Public Conference
London
8 December 2017

Speakers include

Professor Azim Surani

Professor Magdalena Zernicka-Goetz

Professor Robin Lovell-Badge

Sally Cheshire

Professor Guido Pennings

Katherine Littler

Professor Allan Pacey

Dr Sue Avery

Professor Richard Anderson

Dr Elizabeth Garner

Dr Andy Greenfield

Dr Anna Smajdor

Dr Henry Malter

Vivienne Parry

Dr Helen O'Neill

Dr César Palacios-González

Philippa Taylor

Fiona Fox

Sarah Norcross

Sandy Starr


BOOK HERE

Good Fundraising Code

Become a Friend of PET HERE and give the Progress Educational Trust a regular donation