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Oct 30, 2015 10:51 AM EDT

Obesity influenced by gene variation, says study

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A new study claims to have found variation in a gene for brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) that could influence obesity among adults and children, NY City reports.

The study has been funded by the National Institutes of Health.

The researchers suggest that increasing BDNF protein levels may offer a plan for people with the genetic variation that could help people fight obesity.

The BDNF protein plays a number of different roles in the brain and nervous system and can stimulate the feeling of fullness, when present in high levels.

Jack A. Yanovski, one of the study authors, said that this study explains how a single genetic change in BDNF influences obesity and might also affect BDNF protein levels.

"The BDNF gene has previously been linked to obesity, and scientists have been working for several years to understand how changes in this particular gene may predispose people to obesity," said Jack A. Yanovski, M.D., Ph.D., one of the study authors and an investigator at NIH's Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).

"This study explains how a single genetic change in BDNF influences obesity and may affect BDNF protein levels. Finding people with specific causes of obesity may allow us to evaluate effective, more-personalized treatments."

The study team, led by Joan C. Han, M.D., a former NICHD investigator now at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, identified an area of the gene where a single change brought down the level of BDNF in the hypothalamus, the area of the brain that controls eating and body weight.

The detailed research report has been published in the journal Cell.

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