Childhood obesity genes identified

Sydney: Scientists have identified at least two new gene variants that increase the chances of common childhood obesity.

The meta-analysis included 14 different research groups, including that from The University of Western Australia (UWA), encompassing 5,530 cases of childhood obesity and 8,300 control subjects of normal weight, all of European ancestry.

The team identified two novel loci (specific location of a gene), one near the OLFM4 gene on chromosome 13, the other within the HOXB5 gene on chromosome 17.

They also found a degree of evidence for two other gene variants. None of the genes were previously implicated in obesity, the journal Nature Genetics reports.

Scientific director of the study, Craig Pennell, associate professor at UWA, said: "Previous studies have focused on more extreme forms of obesity primarily connected with rare disease syndromes, while this study includes a broader range of children, according to a UWA statement.

"We have identified and characterised two new genetic variants that are associated with a predisposition to common childhood obesity," added Pennell.

Previous studies have identified gene variants contributing to obesity in adults and in children with extreme obesity but relatively little is known about genes implicated in regular childhood obesity.

"This work opens up new avenues to explore the genetics of childhood obesity," said Pennell. "A great deal of work remains, however. These findings may ultimately be useful in helping to design preventive interventions and treatments for children, based on their individual genomes."