Thursday, August 28, 2008

BDNF and onset of obesity

In this week's New England Journal of Medicine, there is an interesting study looking at the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and its relation to obesity. BDNF is a protein encoded by the BDNF gene. BDNF's role in the brain is to help with learning, higher thinking, and memory, especially long-term memory. Studies have looked at the role of BDNF in energy homeostasis in animals but never in humans.

This study looked at a subset group of individuals with
WAGR syndrome, a rare genetic disorder which puts people at risk for eye disorders (Aniridia), certain types of cancers (Wilms tumor based in the kidney), genitourinary anomalies, and mental retardation. In normal people, there are two copies for the BDNF gene, however, those with WAGR syndrome have a deletion in one of the copies, therefore having a lower BDNF. The results showed that all of them with this deletion had onset childhood obesity by age ten and had a strong tendency towards overeating.

The importance of this study is not only looking at genetics but also the role of BDNF on obesity and appetite control. Also to note, BDNF may be indirectly controlled by leptin.


FYI: There is a prospective article in this week's
New England Journal of Medicine that may be useful to some readers who are interested in dispelling the myth that obesity is only based on lifestyle choices. The title of the article is "The power of the extreme in elucidating obesity" by Philippe Froguel and Alexandra Blakemore. I just read the first 100 words, and it sounds like an interesting article.


Cammy said...

Interesting! The abstract says people are affected with just a heterozygous deletion, which means it's most likely a dominant trait. It's so rare that I doubt there are many people that inherit it on both sets of chromosomes, but I wonder how much worse the symptoms would be in that case? Or maybe it would make for nonviable babies, who knows. Thanks for the link!

Tiptoe said...

Cammy, glad you found the article interesting. You're right that the symptoms could be a lot worse if inherited on both set of chromosomes--scary too though.

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Well there's an obvious genetic root to obesity problems, but we have to understand the main cause of this is the misinformation... bad habits at the time to eat kill more people than guns in the world!

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