Global survey helps understand the genetic background of obesity
The researchers of the UT Estonian Genome Centre together with an international scientific circle studied the data of more than 260,000 people worldwide and identified new genes associated with people’s height and body mass index. The results of the survey help to better understand the genetic background of obesity. The researchers found that instead of analysing the whole data set, only the most extreme values of the characteristics may be studied in such surveys.
The international consortium GIANT (The Genetic Investigation of Anthropometric Traits) has identified a number of gene variants associated with people’s height, body mass index and waist-hip ratio. In the course of this recent survey it was checked whether by studying only the extreme values of certain characteristics – for example by comparing very tall people with very short ones – it is possible to make generalisations about the whole population, i.e. to see gene variants that also affect people of medium height, or whether there are other, rarer genetic mutations behind such especially extreme values.
The survey determined that the associations identified in the comparison of very tall and very short people (or of very bulky and very thin people) were similar to those found in the studies covering the whole population, and hence it is allowable to include just a small portion of the most extreme cases when studying continuous characteristics. The survey also found several new gene variants associated with people’s height and body mass index.
“The survey showed that it is not always necessary to study the whole population at once – it may be more practical to only compare the extreme cases,” says Reedik Mägi, one of the lead authors of the survey and senior research fellow at the Estonian Genome Centre, University of Tartu. According to him, the new gene variants associated with obesity that were identified in the course of the research help to better understand the genetic background of obesity, and in the future this information may be used to better treat various illnesses caused by obesity.
The data of more than 260,000 subjects were used in the survey in total. The survey also included the 3000 gene donors of the UT Estonian Genome Centre.
An article on the new gene survey was published in the journal Nature Genetics.
For further information: Reedik Mägi, senior research fellow in statistical genetics, tel: 737 4045, email: reedik.magi [ät] ut.ee.