(Mirror Daily, United States) – A new study supported by the National Institutes of Health found what may be the main driver for obesity in children and adults, a gene variation of the brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF).
Published in the journal Cell Reports, the study found that boosting the drug in people who present the variation – Hispanic and African-American people more than white people, apparently – can correct the issues of appetite-related obesity.
Last year, the BDNF gene has made another appearance in a previous research stating the same effects. The study had experimented with various levels of the BDNF protein in mice brains, and found the lower the levels, the more dramatic the obesity rates. But humans are also affected by deficiencies in BDNF.
There’s potential for novel obesity treatments, according to Maribel Rios, Ph.D., associate professor of neuroscience at Tufts University School of Medicine, following the discovery that the alpha2/delta-1 protein boosts BDNF function. Dr. Rios is also a member of Molecular & Developmental Biology, Sackler School, at Tufts.
Back to our current study, Dr. Jack Yanovski, a researcher at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, said that even though this is not the first time the BDNF gene has been associated with obesity, scientists have been trying for years to understand why variations of this particular gene influences obesity.
As he explained in a press release, Dr. Yanovski seems to have found the answer for how a single genetic alteration in BDNF may lead to obesity and affect BDNF protein levels. He added that it’s crucial for researchers to be able to investigate people who deal with specific causes of obesity as a means to come up with more effective and personalized treatments.
On a nervous level, the BDNF protein is in charge of stimulating the feeling of fullness. Following a thorough analysis of brain tissue samples, Dr. Yanovski’s team was able to identify a spot in the gene where one single modification could alter BDNF levels. These fluctuations in BDNF took place in the hypothalamus, that area of the brain that controls body weight and eating.
Considering the serious issue of obesity that’s been plaguing the United States for the past few decades, it’s important that researchers investigate the genetic factors that could predispose a person to obesity. Changes in genes that regulate the way cells process and store energy are often the cause of excessive energy storage and eventually weight gain.
Image Source: Flickr
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