Found! Fat’s “Master Switch”

Now if only we could find a way to switch it off!

In a breakthrough discovery that has all of us here at Word on Health really excited, scientists have found that a gene that acts as a master switch controlling other genes found in fat tissue.

The study published in Nature Genetics could help to target metabolic diseases such as  obesity, heart disease and diabetes.  More than half a billion people, or one in 10 adults worldwide, are obese. These numbers have doubled since the 1980s as the obesity epidemic has spilled over from wealthy into poorer nations and the trend is expected to continue.

In the United States, obesity-related diseases already account for nearly 10% of medical spending – an estimated $147 billion a year.

Type 2 diabetes, which is often linked to poor diet and lack of exercise, is also reaching epidemic levels worldwide as rates of obesity rise.

The London based research team analyzed more than 20,000 genes in fat samples taken from under the skin of 800 British female twin volunteers. They found the KLF14 gene acts as a master switch to control genes in fat tissues. They confirmed their findings in fat samples from a separate group of people from Iceland.

Genes found to be controlled by KLF14 are linked to a range of metabolic traits, including body mass index, obesity, cholesterol, insulin and glucose levels.

This is the first major study that shows how small changes in one master regulator gene can cause a cascade of other metabolic effects in other genes,” said lead investigator Tim Spector of King’s College London.

The team are now working hard to see how they can use this information to improve treatment of obesity and obesity-related diseases.

As always we’ll be watching, waiting and writing as soon as we hear more.