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Children's Health Channel
Reported December 14, 2009

Mutation Linked to Childhood Obesity

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- The loss of a key segment of DNA can lead to severe childhood obesity.

A new study, led by Dr. Sadaf Farooqi from the University of Cambridge, England, and Dr. Matt Hurles from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, looked at 300 children with severe obesity. The team scanned each child's genome looking for copy number variants (CNVs), or large chunks of DNA either duplicated or deleted from the genes.

By identifying CNVs that were unique in children with severe obesity compared with over 7,000 healthy controls, researchers found certain parts of the genome were missing in some patients with severe obesity.
"We found that part of chromosome 16 can be deleted in some families, and that people with this deletion have severe obesity from a young age," Dr. Farooqi was quoted as saying.
 
"Our results suggest that one particular gene on chromosome 16 called SH2B1 plays a key role in regulating weight and also in handling blood sugar levels,” Farooqi said. “People with deletions involving this gene had a strong drive to eat and gained weight very easily."

Severe childhood obesity has, on occasion, been misattributed to abuse. Some of the children in the study had been formally placed on the Social Services "at risk" register on the assumption that the parents were deliberately overfeeding their children and causing their severe obesity. They have now been removed from the register.

"This study shows that severe obesity is a serious medical issue that deserves scientific investigation," said Dr. Farooqi. "It adds to the growing weight of evidence that a wide range of genetic variants can produce a strong drive to eat. We hope that this will alter attitudes and practices amongst those with professional responsibility for the health and well-being of children."

SOURCE: Nature, December 6, 2009



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