London: Scientists have identified what they claim is the "master switch" gene which causes obesity, a breakthrough which could help treat fat-related diseases such
as heart disease and diabetes.
A team, led by Tim Spector of King`s College London, which has made the discovery, claims that the DNA controls other genes found in the body`s fat cells.
In fact, previous researches have already identified a gene -- KLF14 -- as being linked to type 2 diabetes and high levels of cholesterol, but till now they didn`t know what role
Now, the British scientists analysed more than 20,000 genes in fat samples taken from under the skin of 800 female, British twins. A link was found between the KLF14 gene and the levels of distant genes found in fat tissue showing that KLF14 acts as the controller, the `Daily Mail` reported.
The findings were confirmed in 600 fat samples from a separate group of people from Iceland.
The study, published in the latest edition of `Nature Genetics` journal, revealed that fat plays an important role in people`s susceptibility to metabolic diseases like obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
Drugs could be developed to target this regulating gene, say the scientists.
"This is the first major study that shows how small changes in one master regulator gene can cause a cascade of other metabolic effects in other genes," Spector was quoted by the British newspaper as saying.
In their report, the scientists explained that other genes found to be controlled by KLF14 are linked to a range of metabolic traits, including body mass index, obesity, insulin, cholesterol and glucose levels.
Mark McCarthy, from Oxford University who was involved in the study, added: "KLF14 seems to act as a master switch controlling processes that connect changes in the behaviour of subcutaneous fat to disturbances in muscle and liver that contribute to diabetes and other conditions.
"We are working hard to understand these processes and how we can use this information to improve treatment of these conditions."