Latimer: Research into obesity

It seemed something triggered a change in the gene expression in some [mice, which became obese] but not others.

As the obesity epidemic in children and adults continues across North America, researchers continue to study exactly what is causing it.

Of course we can point to lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise as obvious culprits in some cases. Sedentary lifestyles, fast food and urban sprawl are all important issues worthy of attention and solutions as well as ensuring food security and variety in isolated and lower income communities.

Still, we likely all know individuals who seem to do everything right on the lifestyle front yet continue to struggle with obesity.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics in Freiberg Germany have discovered something that works like a genetic light switch—causing one person to deal with a lifetime of obesity while their identical twin could maintain normal weight.

What this means is for many people obesity may not be caused by inherited traits or lifestyle factors such as over-eating. Rather, according to researcher Andrew Pospisilk, obesity can be triggered in the womb or in early childhood by an unknown factor.

Pospisilik and his colleagues study epigenetics—how genes can change their function or be ‘switched’ on or off due to environmental conditions.

His study examined genetically identical mice with a mutation in a gene protein called Trim28. Some of the mice grew to normal weight while others became obese. It seemed something triggered a change in the gene expression in some but not others.

The same researchers continued and found a similar result in children with the same mutation. Further, the very same result showed up when the researchers examined medical information from sets of identical twins in which one was normal weight and other obese.

In all cases, Trim28 activity was suppressed in the obese individuals but not in those of normal weight.

It is not yet understood what triggers the change in gene expression for some and not others or at what point in life it happens. Pospisilik suspects it occurs during gestation in mice—but it could be different for humans since human brain development continues throughout childhood. Discovering why and when it occurs will be the focus of research going forward.

One optimistic point of note is that in mice the gene appears to reset in each generation meaning that a parent with the obesity expression of the gene will not necessarily have obese children.

I look forward to hearing more updates from this research group. If we could pinpoint its cause and learn how to prevent or reverse the mutation from occurring, we could alleviate a significant burden on people’s health and the health care system.

 

Just Posted

Impaired driver blows twice the legal limit

Kelowna RCMP are reminding drivers that counter attack road checks are underway

Kelowna radio hosts aim to get 10,000 items for those in need

B Mack and Karly’s Cold Weather Clothing Drive kicked off Dec. 10, getting cold-weather donations for those in need.

The Rockets are fueled up and ready to win

Rockets kick off four-game trip ahead of Christmas break

UPDATE: Sagmoen to stand trial

Curtis Wayne Sagmoen will appear on all three Vernon matters this week

More snow to kick off the week

The Okanagan and Shuswap will see a light dusting of snow Monday night

Federal government plans examination of coerced sterilization

The Liberals have been pressed for a rapid response to recent reports on the sterilizations

Huitema, Cornelius named 2018 Canadian Youth International Players of the Year

Huitema was captain of Canada’s fourth-place team at this year’s FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup

Canada not slowing emissions from oil and gas: environmental groups

New report released at the United Nations climate talks in Poland

Liberal Party moves Trudeau fundraiser from military base

The fundraiser is scheduled for Dec. 19, with tickets costing up to $400

Pipeline protesters arrested at B.C. university

Three protesters were arrested after TRU property allegedly vandalized with red paint

Goodale to ‘examine’ transfer of Rafferty to medium-security prison

Michael Rafferty was sentenced to life in prison in 2012 in the kidnapping, sexual assault and first-degree murder of Tori Stafford

‘Abhorrent’ condition of autistic B.C. boy shows flaws in care system: report

‘Charlie’ was underweight and ‘covered in feces’ when he was removed from his mom’s care

Minister appoints former CIRB chair to resolve Canada Post labour dispute

Postal workers engaged in weeks of rotating walkouts

Most Read