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Gene clue to obesity and diabetes

18 July 2005
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 317

Scientists at Imperial College London have announced that they have discovered a gene linked to type 2 diabetes and obesity. Defective versions of the gene ENPP1 disrupt the way the body stores energy and handles sugar by blocking the hormone insulin.

Philippe Froguel and his team found that children with faulty versions of the gene were obese at an early age, as young as five years old. While poor diet and inactivity are largely to blame for obesity and the problems that can lead to type 2 diabetes, Froguel and other scientists say that some people are genetically predisposed as well.

The team looked at French families who had a history of obesity and diabetes and compared them to those that did not. They compared the genes of 1,255 obese or overweight children at ages five and 11 with 1,205 normal children and found that many of the obese children had defective versions of ENPP1. They also found a similar link between ENPP1 variants and obesity in the adults in the families, as well as early warning signs of diabetes. They did not assess how much the genes were to blame for weight gain and metabolic problems as opposed to poor diet or lack of exercise.

The study offers hope for a diagnostic test that would allow doctors to spot the problem early and offer advice on how to lead a healthier lifestyle to avoid problems in the future. Froguel says it would be technically possible to screen people for faulty ENPP1 genes, but thinks that public health measures such as encouraging exercise and getting food manufacturers to lower sugar and fat contents in food would be a better way to tackle the problem.

DNA test for diabetes and obesity
BBC News Online |  18 July 2005
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