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Can obesity be blamed on our genes?

Targeting a specific gene by decreasing its activity could provide an opportunity for developing new anti-obesity drugs, a new study suggests. The findings provide evidence that overactivity of a gene called FTO, certain versions of which are known to be linked to obesity and Type 2 diabetes, leads to overeating and obesity in mice.

Published in the journal ‘Nature Genetics’, the results of the study, conducted by a research team from the University of Oxford and the Medical Research Council are being seen as a step forward in understanding why people with certain FTO variants are more prone to obesity. The team hope this discovery may also lead to new treatments for those with serious weight problems.

Promising findings

With almost two in every three people in the UK being overweight or obese, this finding could prove promising in the fight to slow the alarming rise of cases of Type 2 diabetes.

Treatment still a long way off

"This work makes us confident that FTO is an important gene that contributes to obesity," said Professor Frances Ashcroft of the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics at the University of Oxford, and one of the leaders of the research.

"Too much activity of this gene can lead to putting on weight by overeating. We can now think about developing drugs that turn down the activity of the FTO gene as potential anti-obesity pills. That's a long way off and there's no certainty of success, but it's an enticing prospect," added Professor Ashcroft.

"The research is a step forward in the fight against the rise in obesity and Type 2 diabetes in the UK as it tells us more about the genetic side of weight gain and hints at ways that we may be able to prevent this weight gain in the future," said Dr Victoria King, Diabetes UK Head of Research.

"However, as attractive as it would be to develop a drug to reduce weight in the obese and those at risk of Type 2 diabetes, there is still a way to go until these findings would translate into public benefit. We need to encourage people to be more physically active and follow a healthy diet to help them manage their weight and reduce their risk of developing obesity related conditions such as Type 2 diabetes."

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