Genetic Researchers Identify New Height, Obesity Genes

An international scientific collaboration led by Dr Ruth Loos of Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, UK, and Dr Erik Ingelsson of the Uppsala University, Sweden, has reported the discovery of four new loci (the specific place on a chromosome where a gene is located) influencing height and seven new loci related to obesity.

Researchers from the GIANT consortium identified new genes influencing height and related to obesity (National Institutes of Health / U.S. Department of Health & Human Services)

Researchers from the GIANT consortium identified new genes influencing height and related to obesity (National Institutes of Health / U.S. Department of Health & Human Services)

The study, published in the journal Nature Genetics, was put together by the GIANT consortium – Genetic Investigation of Anthropometric Traits. It focused primarily on BMI (Body Mass Index), which is a major risk factor for multiple chronic diseases and of important public health significance, but also examined height and waist-hip ratio adjusted for BMI.

“The newly discovered genes represented further pieces in the puzzle as researchers sought to understand the genetic contributions to height and weight. They already know of some genes likely to affect height and weight, but these genes only explain a limited amount of the contribution of genetics to these traits. So a lot of genes still need to be identified, but this is an important step,” said Prof Gemma Cadby of the University of Western Australia, co-author of the paper.

The paper is co-authored by more than 300 researchers, and is the result of a meta-analysis of dozens of studies around the world collating data from more than 263,407 individuals of European background. In total, they identified 7 loci (HNF4G, RPTOR, GNAT2, MRPS33P4, ADCY9, HS6ST3 and ZZZ3) related to obesity and 4 loci (IGFBP4, H6PD, RSRC1 and PPP2R2A) affecting height.

“The ultimate goal for genetic studies is to further the understanding of human diseases and in doing so, to develop new treatments and ways of preventing disease. Actually translating the results of studies such as this into providing intervention, management and treatments for people who are obese is a long way ahead, but in order to do those things you need to understand the genetics of the disease. We have to get this bit of the puzzle before we can move to the next step,” Prof Cadby explained.

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Bibliographic information: Sonja I Berndt et al. Genome-wide meta-analysis identifies 11 new loci for anthropometric traits and provides insights into genetic architecture. Nature Genetics, published online April 07, 2013; doi: 10.1038/ng.2606