Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

'Gene overdose' Causes Extreme Thinness

Published: Thursday, September 01, 2011
Last Updated: Thursday, September 01, 2011
Bookmark and Share
People with extra copies of certain genes are much more likely to be very skinny.

Scientists have discovered a genetic cause of extreme thinness for the first time, in a study published in the journal Nature.

The research shows that people with extra copies of certain genes are much more likely to be very skinny. In one in 2000 people, part of chromosome 16 is duplicated, making men 23 times and women five times more likely to be underweight.

Each person normally has a copy of each chromosome from each parent, so we have two copies of each gene. But sometimes sections of a chromosome can be duplicated or deleted, resulting in an abnormal 'dosage' of genes.

In a study examining the DNA of over 95,000 people, researchers at Imperial College London and the University of Lausanne have identified that duplication of a part of chromosome 16 is associated with being underweight, defined as a body mass index below 18.5.

Half of all children with the duplication in the study have been diagnosed with a 'failure to thrive', meaning that their rate of weight gain is significantly lower than normal.

A quarter of people with the duplication have microcephaly, a condition in which the head and brain are abnormally small, which is associated with neurological defects and shorter life expectancy.

Last year, the same researchers discovered that people with a missing copy of these genes are 43 times more likely to be morbidly obese.

Professor Philippe Froguel, from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, who led the study, said: "The dogma is that we have two copies of each gene, but this isn't really true. The genome is full of holes where genes are lost, and in other places we have extra copies of genes. In many cases, duplications and deletions have no effect, but occasionally they can lead to disease.

"So far, we have discovered a large number of genetic changes that lead to obesity. It seems that we have plenty of systems that increase appetite since eating is so important - users can suppress one and nothing happens. This is the first genetic cause of extreme thinness that has been identified.

"One reason this is important is that it shows that failure to thrive in childhood can be genetically driven. If a child is not eating, it's not necessarily the parents' fault.

"It's also the first example of a deletion and a duplication of one part of the genome having opposite effects. At the moment we don't know anything about the genes in this region. If we can work out why gene duplication in this region causes thinness, it might throw up new potential treatments for obesity and appetite disorders. We now plan to sequence these genes and find out what they do, so we can get an idea of which ones are involved in regulating appetite."

The part of chromosome 16 identified in the study contains 28 genes. Duplications in this region have previously been linked with schizophrenia, and deletions with autism.

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,000+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

New Technique Negotiates Neuron Jungle To Target Source Of Parkinson’s Disease
Researchers from Imperial College London and Newcastle University believe they have found a potential new way to target cells of the brain affected by Parkinson’s disease.
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
Designer Molecule Shines a Spotlight on Mysterious Four-Stranded DNA
A small fluorescent molecule has shed new light on knots of DNA thought to play a role in regulating how genes are switched on and off.
Thursday, September 10, 2015
New Drug Target Identified for Serious Heart and Lung Condition
A gene has been identified that sheds new light on a potentially fatal heart and lung condition and could lead to a new treatment.
Friday, August 14, 2015
Scientists Find New Variant of Streptococcal Bacteria Causing Severe Infections
Researchers noticed a sharp rise in infections caused by emm89.
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Gene Therapy for Cystic Fibrosis Shows Encouraging Trial Results
A therapy that replaces the faulty gene responsible for cystic fibrosis in patients' lungs has produced encouraging results in a major UK trial.
Friday, July 03, 2015
New Genetic Form of Obesity and Diabetes Discovered
Scientists have discovered a new inherited form of obesity and type 2 diabetes in humans.
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
New Genetic Form of Obesity and Diabetes Discovered
Scientists have discovered a new inherited form of obesity and type 2 diabetes in humans.
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Researchers Develop New Breath Test to Diagnose Oesophageal and Gastric Cancer
Test will now be tested in a larger trial involving three hospitals in London.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Imperial Researchers Win Health Foundation Grant for Cancer Innovation Study
Each project will receive over £450,000 of funding to support the research.
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Diet Swap has Dramatic Effects on Colon Cancer Risk for Americans and Africans
New study confirms that a high fibre diet can substantially reduce risk.
Saturday, May 02, 2015
Protein That Boosts Immunity to Viruses and Cancer Discovered
Researchers now developing a gene therapy designed to boost the infection-fighting cells.
Saturday, April 18, 2015
Epigenetic Study Highlights Drug Targets for Allergies and Asthma
Scientists have discovered over 30 new genes that predispose people to allergies and asthma, some of which could be targets for new drugs.
Saturday, February 21, 2015
New 'Systems Genetics' Study Identifies Possible Target For Epilepsy Treatment
A single gene that coordinates a network of about 400 genes involved in epilepsy could be a target for new treatments, according to research.
Friday, January 23, 2015
Titin' Gene Mutations Will Help Identify Patients At Risk Of Heart Failure
A new study has identified genetic mutations that cause the heart condition dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), paving the way for more accurate diagnosis.
Friday, January 16, 2015
New Test can Help Doctors Choose Best Treatment for Ovarian Cancer
ADNEX discriminate between benign and malignant tumours with a high level of accuracy.
Friday, October 17, 2014
Scientific News
New Tech Vastly Improves CRISPR/Cas9 Accuracy
A new CRISPR/Cas9 technology developed by scientists at UMass Medical School is precise enough to surgically edit DNA at nearly any genomic location, while avoiding potentially harmful off-target changes typically seen in standard CRISPR gene editing techniques.
New Class of RNA Tumor Suppressors Identified
Two short, “housekeeping” RNA molecules block cancer growth by binding to an important cancer-associated protein called KRAS. More than a quarter of all human cancers are missing these RNAs.
Biologists Induce Flatworms to Grow Heads and Brains of Other Species
Findings shed light on role of a new kind of epigenetic signaling in evolution, could yield clues for understanding birth defects and regeneration.
Turning up the Tap on Microbes Leads to Better Protein Patenting
Mining millions of proteins could become faster and easier with a new technique that may also transform the enzyme-catalyst industry, according to University of California, Davis, researchers.
Mathematical Model Forecasts the Path of Breast Cancer
Chances of survival depend on which organs breast cancer tumors colonize first.
Exploring the Causes of Cancer
Queen's research to understand the regulation of a cell surface protein involved in cancer.
Ancient Viral Molecules Essential for Human Development
Genetic material from ancient viral infections is critical to human development, according to researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
Tardigrade's Are DNA Master Thieves
Tardigrades, nearly microscopic animals that can survive the harshest of environments, including outer space, hold the record for the animal that has the most foreign DNA.
The Secret Behind the Power of Bacterial Sex
Migration between different communities of bacteria is the key to the type of gene transfer that can lead to the spread of traits such as antibiotic resistance, according to researchers at Oxford University.
Farming’s in Their DNA
Ancient genomes reveal natural selection in action.
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos