Causal genetic variant linked to childhood obesity identified

Identification of a causal genetic variant associated with childhood obesity could pave the way for new therapies targeting the actions of this variant.

The research has shed new light on the importance of the brain’s hypothalamus – the area that helps produce hormones – and the role it plays in childhood obesity.

The findings highlight how the brain plays a central role in the genetics of obesity, says the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) team that conducted the study.

Previous research has demonstrated that neural pathways in the hypothalamus control food intake and are key regulators of childhood obesity. Previous studies by CHOP researchers have identified genetic markers – loci – associated with obesity.

This latest study focused on chr12q13, a locus harboring the neighboring gene FAIM2, which produced a significantly stronger signal with childhood obesity compared to adult obesity.

The author of the first study, Sheridan H. Littleton, postdoctoral research associate, said: “By focusing specifically on this locus, we were able to identify a causal variant associated with one of the strongest genetic signals we implicated in childhood obesity.

“With more research, it is possible to discover how the target of action of this variant could become a target for new treatments specifically designed to treat childhood obesity.”

The chr12q13 locus has also been associated with other health conditions, including increased risk of type 2 diabetes, increased body fat percentage in children and adults, and menstruation starting at an earlier age.

Struan FA Grant, director of the Center for Spatial and Functional Genomics and the Daniel B. Burke Chair in Diabetes Research at CHOP, said: “Despite a range of challenges, a study like this demonstrates how additional effort can can reveal important information. on previously uncharacterized genetic variants and the role they play in various childhood and adult diseases.

“This work further highlights how the brain plays a central role in the genetics of obesity and provides us with a strategy for further study.”

Read the full study in Cell Genomics.