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Study finds genetic link between obesity and early puberty

29 November 2010
Appeared in BioNews 586

An international study has uncovered new genes linked to the early onset of puberty and increased likelihood of obesity. The researchers performed a meta-analysis of 32 genome-wide association studies (GWAS) involving over 100,000 women from Europe, the US and Australia.

They uncovered 30 new genes, involved in the onset of the menarche - the first menstrual cycle in humans - which included four genetic loci previously linked to body mass index (BMI) in or near the Fto, SEC16B, TRA2B, and TMEM18 genes.

Cathy Elks, one of the lead authors from the Medical Research Council (MRC) epidemiology unit in Cambridge, said: 'It is interesting that several of the new genes for puberty timing have been linked in other studies to body weight gain and obesity'.

Dr Ken Ong, also from MRC Cambridge further noted: 'We know that girls who are overweight are more likely to go through puberty at younger ages. Our findings tell us that being overweight and early puberty are intricately linked'. In addition, other genes implicated in the study were found to be involved in energy balance (BSX, CRTC1, MCHR2) and hormone regulation (INHBA, PCSK2, RXRG).

Dr Anna Murray from Exeter University, who was also involved in the research, told the Telegraph: 'We found that the timing of puberty is related to fatty acid metabolic pathways. There is evidence that the brain can sense these types of body fats'.

The work was carried out by the ReproGen consortium, a team of scientists from 104 institutions worldwide, studying genetic factors involved in reproduction. The study was jointly funded by the MRC and Wellcome Trust, and published in Nature Genetics.

30 genes linked to when puberty starts in girls
Medical News Today |  22 November 2010
Early puberty and obesity are linked in young girls, genetic research finds
Daily Telegraph |  22 November 2010
Genes found linking sexual maturity to body fat in women
Medical Research Council (MRC) News |  21 November 2010
Genes give clue to early puberty
BBC News |  21 November 2010
'Puberty and obesity' link in women
UK Press Association |  22 November 2010
Thirty new loci for age at menarche identified by a meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies
Nature Genetics |  21 November 2010
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