Is There Such a Thing as an ‘Obesity Gene’?
Having trouble losing weight? Well, it turns out that blaming your genes might actually be a legitimate excuse. Scientists discovered that a gene mutation can make people think they're hungry even when they're physically full.
In a normal person, the hormones leptin and insulin are released after eating, which then tell the satiety-center of the brain that the stomach is full. But if those signals aren't properly transmitted, we think we're still hungry -- and we keep eating.
In studies with mice, researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center found a mutation in the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (Bdnf, for short) can disrupt that signal, leading the rodents to continually eat and rapidly gain weight. This suggests there could be a way to stimulate that gene and treat obesity caused by uncontrolled food intake.
Senior researcher Baoji Xu, Ph.D., an associate professor of pharmacology and physiology at Georgetown, said that while the link between obesity and the Bdnf gene has been studied before, this is the first time scientists have been able to show exactly how the gene plays a role in overeating, adding the discovery may "open up novel strategies to help the brain control body weight."