It's not just one gene, but many genes that can cause obesity, and that makes it tough for drug designers to develop more effective treatments. Now genetic researchers studying obesity want to attack the causes, not the symptom.
On the outside all obesity may look alike, but on the inside it may look very different all the way down to the genes. Some genes may affect your perception of hunger, so you become obese because you tend to eat too much. But other genes may affect your metabolic rate.
Scientists at Rosetta Inpharmatics and UCLA say they can distinguish between two types of obesity in mice, based on the activity of their genes. The geneticists tested tissue samples using high-tech gene chips. They can detect which of 25-thousand genes are turned on or off in each animal. The result? Two distinctly different patterns.
The scientists say the different causes would be treated with different drugs. Other complex diseases that could be teased apart into genetic sub-types include cancer, asthma, osteoporosis and heart disease.
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