Obesity Predisposing Gene More Common In African Americans and Hispanics

Joan C. Han, MD Director, Pediatric Obesity Program, Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital Associate Professor, Division of Pediatric Endocrinology Department of Pediatrics, University of Tennessee Health Science Center Memphis, TN 38103

Dr. Han

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Joan C. Han, MD
Director, Pediatric Obesity Program, Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital
Associate Professor, Division of Pediatric Endocrinology
Department of Pediatrics, University of Tennessee Health Science Center
Memphis, TN 38103

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Han: Obesity has become a world-wide epidemic. Our research group studies the genetic factors that contribute to the development of obesity. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a protein that plays a key role in regulating appetite. We found that a common genetic variant of the BDNF gene is associated with lower expression of this gene in the hypothalamus, a region of the brain that controls energy balance. The mechanism of this reduced gene expression appears to be due to diminished binding of the transcription factor hnRNPD0B. We also observed that this genetic variant is associated with higher body mass index and higher body fat in children and adults. The obesity-predisposing variant of the BDNF gene occurs more commonly in people of African-American or Hispanic backgrounds, which could have important clinical implications given the higher rates of obesity in these populations.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Han: Body weight is determined by a combination of genetic, environmental, and behavioral factors. Understanding the role of genetics in each person’s individual predisposition for obesity can help guide obesity prevention and treatment efforts.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Han: We hope that the findings of our research study will serve as the foundation for developing better, personalized approaches for the prevention and treatment of obesity based on individual genetic characteristics. Targeted therapies that increase BDNF signaling in the brain may specifically benefit people who have the obesity-predisposing version of BDNF. Such an individualized approach would be an important way to advance precision medicine. We need to find specific treatments for specific causes of disease because one size does not fit all.

Citation:

Zongyang Mou et al. Human Obesity Associated with an Intronic SNP in the Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor Locus. Cell Reports, October 2015 DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2015.09.065

Joan C. Han, MD (2015). Obesity Predisposing Gene More Common In African Americans and Hispanics

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