Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Genes related to body mass discovered

Date:
September 16, 2010
Source:
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Summary:
Scientists who specialize in unconventional hunts for genetic information outside nuclear DNA sequences have bagged a weighty quarry -- 13 genes linked to human body mass. The experiments screened the so-called epigenome for key information that cells remember other than the DNA code itself and may have serious implications for preventing and treating obesity, the investigators say.

Johns Hopkins scientists who specialize in unconventional hunts for genetic information outside nuclear DNA sequences have bagged a weighty quarry -- 13 genes linked to human body mass. The experiments screened the so-called epigenome for key information that cells remember other than the DNA code itself and may have serious implications for preventing and treating obesity, the investigators say.

"Some of the genes we found are in regions of the genome previously suspected but not confirmed for a link to body mass index and obesity," says co-lead investigator Andrew Feinberg, M.D., M.P.H., King Fahd Professor of Molecular Medicine and director of the Center for Epigenetics at Johns Hopkins' Institute for Basic Biomedical Sciences. "Meanwhile, others were a surprise, such as one known to be associated with foraging behavior in hungry worms."

Starting with DNA samples extracted from Icelanders' white blood cells banked in 1991 and 2002 by scientists there as part of the AGES-Reykjavik study of individuals in the general population, the Hopkins team used a customized, genome-wide profiling method dubbed CHARM (comprehensive high-throughput arrays for relative methylation) to look for regions that were the most variable, all chemically marked by DNA methylation.

The DNA methylation analyses revealed epigenetic fingerprints, which, unique to each individual, remain stable over time and may be associated with various common traits including risks for common, complex diseases such as cancer and other conditions.

"Epigenetics has given us 13 exciting new leads to variability in body mass and obesity," says co-lead investigator M. Daniele Fallin, Ph.D., associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "The team's success suggests a new epigenetic strategy for identifying those at risk for many common diseases, and for possible new prevention methods and therapies."

In a report on the new study published Sept. 15 in Science Translational Medicine, the researchers reveal 227 regions within the genome where there's a great deal of variation among individuals. While 41 (about one-third) of these regions, known as VMRs, changed within each person between the 1991 and 2002 DNA analyses, 119 remained stable over time, satisfying the definition of an epigenetic fingerprint, or signature, for each person.

Curious to know if these signatures were linked to obesity-related disease, the researchers analyzed them in relation to each person's body mass index -- a measure of one's weight relative to height. BMI was chosen, Feinberg says, because a high BMI predicts risk for many common diseases in the general population.

The team used BMI data provided by Iceland's AGES-Reykjavik study, which archives detailed information over time about that isolated nation's population, including body compositions and metabolic regulations. "We found a high statistical significance between 13 of these VMRs and body mass index," Fallin says. "The level of methylation at these VMRs is, in fact, related to the person's weight."

The researchers focused their search on the epigenetic mark known as DNA methylation because this chemical change in DNA involves the addition of a methyl (a carbon-and-3-hydrogen atom) group, which, although not contained in the DNA sequence itself, controls when and how genes are turned on and off. Such "switches" signal cells in the body that share the same DNA to assume different functions or forms.

Overall, the team measured DNA methylation levels of 4.5 million selected sites genome-wide in the Iceland DNA samples that were taken 11 years apart, from 74 individuals, ultimately tracking down an array of genes associated with body mass index.

"What we accomplished is a small proof-of-principle study that we think is just the tip of the iceberg in using epigenetics to expand our knowledge of new markers for many common diseases and opening the door for personalized epigenetic medicine," Feinberg says.

"BMI is just a starting point for us," agrees Rafael Irizarry, Ph.D., a professor of biostatistics and co-author of the report. "We want to use the same method to look for genes associated with autism, bipolar disease and variations in aging."

The research was supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the National Human Genome Research Institute, the National Institute on Aging, the Icelandic Heart Association and the Icelandic Parliament.

Johns Hopkins authors, in addition to Feinberg and Fallin, are Martin J. Aryee, Peter Murakami, Tamara B. Harris, Lenore Launer, Delphine Fradin, and Rafael A. Irizarry. Other authors are Thor Aspelund, Gudny Eiriksdottir and Vilmundur Gudnason of the University of Iceland.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Andrew P. Feinberg, Rafael A. Irizarry, Delphine Fradin, Martin J. Aryee, Peter Murakami, Thor Aspelund, Gudny Eiriksdottir, Tamara B. Harris, Lenore Launer, Vilmundur Gudnason, M. Daniele Fallin. Personalized Epigenomic Signatures That Are Stable Over Time and Covary with Body Mass Index. Science Translational Medicine, 2010; 2 (49): 49ra67 DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3001262

Cite This Page:

Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. "Genes related to body mass discovered." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 September 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100915150947.htm>.
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. (2010, September 16). Genes related to body mass discovered. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100915150947.htm
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. "Genes related to body mass discovered." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100915150947.htm (accessed August 1, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Friday, August 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

House Republicans Vote to Sue Obama Over Healthcare Law

House Republicans Vote to Sue Obama Over Healthcare Law

Reuters - US Online Video (July 31, 2014) The Republican-led House of Representatives votes to sue President Obama, accusing him of overstepping his executive authority in making changes to the Affordable Care Act. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Despite Health Questions, E-Cigs Are Beneficial: Study

Despite Health Questions, E-Cigs Are Beneficial: Study

Newsy (July 31, 2014) Citing 81 previous studies, new research out of London suggests the benefits of smoking e-cigarettes instead of regular ones outweighs the risks. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida

AP (July 31, 2014) Sarasota County, Florida health officials have issued a warning against eating raw oysters and exposing open wounds to coastal and inland waters after a dangerous bacteria killed one person and made another sick. (July 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 30, 2014) Obamacare-related costs were said to be behind the profit plunge at Wellpoint and Humana, but Wellpoint sees the new exchanges boosting its earnings for the full year. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins