Scientists discover the fat gene

Scientists claim they’ve found the fat gene, which could explain the cause of Britain’s rising obesity rates

A groundbreaking study has identified the ‘master switch’ gene, which is already associated with type 2 diabetes and cholesterol, as playing a key role in the cause of obesity.

The KLF14 gene is inherited from both parents, however, only the gene inherited from the mother is active. Recent figures have revealed that almost 62 per cent of British adults are obese, and British women are the most overweight in Western Europe.

A study of more than 20,000 genes in fat samples reveals the KLF14 gene is responsible for the amount of distant genes found in fat. ‘This is the first major study that shows how small changes in one master regulator gene can cause a cascade of other metabolic effects in other genes,’ says Tim Spector of King’s College London.

‘This has great therapeutic potential particularly as by studying large detailed populations we hope to find more of these regulators,’ he says.

The KLF14 gene also governs other distant genes, which control insulin, cholesterol, and BMI. Scientists hope the findings from this study will further enable the treatment of diseases linked to obesity including heart disease and diabetes.

‘KLF14 seems to act as a master switch controlling processes that connect changes in the behaviour of subcutaneous fat to disturbances in muscle and liver that contribute to diabetes and other conditions,’ says Mark McCarthy, study co leader from the University of Oxford.

‘We are working hard right now to understand these processes and how we can use this information to improve treatment of these conditions.’

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