British scientists find obesity gene link

Overweight? New gene link could pave the way for new treatments, say scientists

BRITISH SCIENTISTS HAVE made a breakthrough in understanding why some people are more likely to pile on the pounds than others.

Earlier this year, they reported more than half of the population carries a variant of a gene called FTO that makes them more likely to become obese.

And now, a team of Cambridge and London scientists report in the journal, Science, the first clues regarding what this gene does and how it might affect body weight. This could pave the way for developing new treatments for obesity within a few years.

The team, led by Prof Chris Schofield of Oxford University, have found that the protein corresponding to the FTO is an enzyme, or biological catalyst, that modifies DNA.

He explains: ‘Because enzymes are the targets of many of our most important pharmaceuticals, such as aspirin and penicillin, it should be possible to artificially alter FTO activity using small molecules.’ However, he added: ‘There’s a long way to go before the work could be applied medicinally.’

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