Subscribe to the BioNews newsletter for free

Login
Advanced Search

Search for
BioNews

Like the Progress Educational Trust on Facebook


The Fertility Show


 

Obesity-related gene variant linked to brain shrinking

26 April 2010

By Dr Charlotte Maden

Appeared in BioNews 555

The obesity-related gene FTO also plays a role in loss of brain tissue, according to a US study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last week.

As reported in BioNews, UK researchers three years ago found people carrying two copies of a common variant of FTO are on average three kilograms heavier than people who carry normal versions of the gene, and have a 70 per cent increased risk of obesity. At least one copy of the variant is carried by nearly half of all Western Europeans.

Since then, scientists worldwide have worked to discover how this gene functions. The new research comes from neurologist Professor Paul Thompson and his team at the University of California, Los Angeles. They generated three-dimensional maps of the brains of 206 healthy elderly people, who had had MRI scans as part of the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative - a five-year study aimed at better understanding the factors that help aging brains resist disease.

The team found that people carrying the obesity-related variation of the FTO gene had brain volume deficits compared to people with the normal version of the gene. In fact, people with the variant had eight per cent lower brain volume in the frontal lobes, sometimes known as the 'command centre' of the brain, and 12 per cent lower volume in the occipital lobes - areas responsible for vision and perception.

The brain deficits were also present in subjects with higher body mass index (BMI) measurements, but the study showed that the differences were not attributable to cholesterol levels, high blood pressure or diabetes - factors which could otherwise cause damage to the brain.

Loss of brain tissue depletes a person's compensatory brain reserves, putting them at higher risk from Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative disorders, as well as stroke.

Professor Thompson said: 'this is a shocking finding. Any loss of brain tissue puts you at greater risk for functional decline'. He continued that it is important that carriers of the gene variant should: 'exercise and eat healthily to resist both obesity and brain decline'. This is especially true since previous research found that the predisposition to obesity can be overcome by exercise and a low-fat diet.

'The present finding has important implications for obesity research and for combating the progression of neurodegeneration' said Professor Thompson. 'The gene discovery will help to develop and fine tune the anti-dementia drugs being developed to combat brain ageing'.

A spokesperson from the Alzheimer's Society said: 'We've known for some time that there's a link between obesity in mid life and the development of Alzheimer's disease. However, this study suggests that healthy people who carry a specific DNA sequence associated with obesity could be at a greater risk of developing dementia. This is a relatively small study but the findings support the need for more research. One million people will develop dementia in the next 10 years, but dementia research is desperately under-funded, however with the right investment, it can be defeated'.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Daily Mail | 20 April 2010
 
New Scientist | 19 April 2010
 
UPI.com | 20 April 2010
 
NPR | 19 April 2010
 
The Daily Telegraph | 20 April 2010
 

RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE

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....
18 October 2010 - by Chris Chatterton 
Scientists from the GIANT (Genetic Investigation of Anthropometric Traits) consortium have identified new genetic markers linked to body shape and obesity...
19 July 2010 - by Chris Chatterton 
Middle-aged people without Alzheimer's disease who have a 'high risk' variant of the TOMM40 gene are more likely to have poorer memory, new research findings suggest...
05 July 2010 - by Chris Chatterton 
Stories about a genetic test to see if you would live to 100 abounded in the UK press last week. Was this hype or something more? The stories arose following the publication of a paper in Science where researchers claimed to have identified regions of the genome linked to exceptional longevity...
- by Dr Zara Mahmoud 
A bout of intense exercise can change the way your genes are regulated, scientists have shown. These changes led to an increase in enzymes that are involved in energy production...

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...
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...
16 September 2008 - by Dr Rebecca Robey 
High levels of physical exercise can override a genetic predisposition to being overweight, according to a new study by American scientists. In a report published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers found that the increased risk of obesity associated with carrying a particular gene variant...
12 May 2008 - by Ailsa Stevens 
Half of the UK population may be at increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease, due to a genetic variation which makes carriers prone to weight gain, according to a study published in the journal Nature Genetics last week. The researchers, based at Imperial...
12 November 2007 - by Ailsa Stevens 
Scientists have moved a step closer to understanding how a gene previously linked to obesity makes people prone to weight gain, according to a study published last week in the journal Science. The discovery may help scientists to develop new treatments to combat the increasing numbers of...

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

Moving the Boundaries of Human Reproduction

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 Jacques Cohen

Dr Anna Smajdor

Dr Andy Greenfield

Vivienne Parry

Dr Helen O'Neill

Dr César Palacios-González

Philippa Taylor

Fiona Fox

Sarah Norcross


BOOK HERE

Good Fundraising Code

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