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Friday, 22 May 2020

Scientists find gene linked to thinness, create skinnier mice

Skinny jeans

Scientists may be one step closer to unraveling the mystery of people who stay effortlessly thin.
In a study published on Thursday in the journal “Cell,” researchers claim that they identified a gene linked to thinness with the help of a genetic database of 47,000 people from Estonia. They add that deleting this gene resulted in thinner flies and mice who resisted obesity even when their diet encouraged it.
“We all know these people: it’s around one percent of the population,” said senior author Josef Penninger, professor of medical genetics at the University of British Columbia. "They can eat whatever they want and be metabolically healthy. They eat a lot, they don’t do squats all the time, but they just don’t gain weight.
“Everybody studies obesity and the genetics of obesity,” he added. “We thought, ‘Let’s just turn it around and start a new research field.’ Let’s study thinness.”
Coincidentally, the ALK gene linked to thinness in the study can also, in a mutated form, be the source of cancerous tumors. There is still much to be learned about the gene, but the fact that other scientists have already tried to target it because of its dangers could open up a simpler path for fighting obesity.
“ALK inhibitors are used in cancer treatments already. It’s targetable. We could possibly inhibit ALK, and we actually will try to do this in the future,” Penninger said.
Of course, this genetic discovery won’t immediately revolutionize the always-lucrative weight-loss industry. It’s a starting point that will need to be confirmed by other scientists with samples beyond those used by this study from the Estonian Biobank.
“You learn a lot from biobanks,” said Penninger. “Like everything, it’s not the ultimate answer to life, but they’re the starting points and very good points for confirmation, very important links and associations to human health.”

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