Scientists Discovered How Obesity Works to Treat It

The key gene connected to obesity, responsible for people getting fatter, has finally been figured out. Scientists anticipate this to offer a totally new approach to the problem. It seems like a strict diet and intensive workouts will no longer be the only solutions to obesity, whose mysteries have just been solved.


In 2007, researchers found out that there was a gene that was somehow related to obesity, but they were not able to connect it to appetite and other factors. However, now we know that the FTO gene has an evil, faulty version that stores energy from food as fat, and does not let it get burnt.  What the experiments show is quite positive, though, since tests on mice and human cells indicate that this can be reversed and the hope of a drug or other treatment might be developed.

Responsible for this research are scientists from Harvard University and MIT, who published their study online on Wednesday on  the New England Journal of Medicine.


Melina Slaussnitzer, lead author of the study and genetics specialist at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, says that this discovery is an answer to those who believe that obesity is a choice: “For the first time, genetics has revealed a mechanism in obesity that was not really suspected before,” she says.

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Dr. Clifforf Rosen, associate editor at the medical journal and scientist at Maine Medical Center Research Institute, says that “it’s a big deal,” and that obesity is not all about eating, but how the FTO gene decides to store energy and use food. With this discovery, “you now have a pathway for drugs that can make those fat cells work differently,” he continued.


So far, there has not been an obesity drug that would fight the problem long-term targeting metabolism. Most of them just aim at the brain and affect appetite in many different ways, but scientists are positive that this is going to change. Even though we cannot guess how long it might take before a new drug based on the new data becomes available, they say that it will not be something like a magic pill. People will not be able to eat whatever they want without gaining weight and targeting fat pathway could affect other things.

Eating habits and exercise are still important since the gene glitch does not explain all obesity. Actually, FTO was found in 44 percent of Europeans but only 5 percent of blacks suggesting that there are other genes at work, as well.

Manolis Kellis, MIT professor, says that having the glitch doesn’t make you doomed to become obese but may predispose you to it: “People with two faulty copies of the gene (one from Mom and one from Dad) weighed an average of 7 pounds more than those without them. But some were a lot heavier than that, and 7 pounds can be the difference between a healthy and an unhealthy weight.”


With more than half a billion obese people in the world, the necessity of a drug which can hit obesity in its nucleus is getting bigger and bigger. The experiments, as the journal describes, anyway, show that scientists are already getting close to creating a new pill that will change the way experts fight obesity and the diseases it hosts.


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