Scientists discover a ‘master switch’ to control obesity

One gene to rule them all?

Scientists have found that a gene linked to diabetes and cholesterol is a “master switch” that controls other genes found in body fat. They say it should help in the search for treatments for obesity-related diseases.

In a study published in the journal Nature Genetics, the British researchers said that since fat plays an important role in peoples’ susceptibility to metabolic diseases like obesity, heart disease and diabetes, the regulating gene could be a target for drugs to treat such illnesses.

“This is the first major study that shows how small changes in one master regulator gene can cause a cascade of other metabolic effects in other genes,” said Tim Spector of King’s College London, who led the study.

More than half a billion people are obese.

The science

Researchers analyzed more than 20,000 genes in fat samples taken from under the skin of volunteers.

They found a link between the KLF14 gene and the levels of many other distant genes found in fat tissue, showing that KLF14 acts as a master switch to control these genes.

Genes controlled by KLF14 are linked to a range of metabolic traits, including body mass index, obesity, cholesterol, insulin and glucose levels, researchers say.



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