Scientists Find Genetic Variants That Prevent Obesity, Diabetes

Scientists Find Genetic Variants That Prevent Obesity, Diabetes
Researchers from the University of Cambridge have discovered genetic variants, or mutations, that protect people from obesity and its symptoms — and they think the discovery could lead to new weight-loss medications.

“A powerful emerging concept is that genetic variants that protect against disease can be used as models for the development of medicines that are more effective and safer,” researcher Luca Lotta said in a news release .

In a study published on Thursday in the journal Cell, the team details how it analyzed the MC4R gene in half a million volunteers who participated in the  U.K. Biobank study .

They already knew the gene played a role in regulating weight, but through their new research they discovered 61 distinct variants of it, some of which help people avoid becoming obese. Others provided protection against obesity symptoms, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

The study does more than just illuminate a path toward new weight-loss medications — it also shines a light on the very nature of obesity.

“This study drives home the fact that genetics plays a major role in why some people are obese,” researcher Sadaf Farooqi said in the news release, “and that some people are fortunate enough to have genes that protect them from obesity.”

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