Searching for the Genetic Source

Study finds that fat is associated with chemical changes in the DNA

(RxWiki News) A new study from the Medical College of Georgia has established a link between fat and chemical changes in DNA. This may explain the increased risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes among obese individuals.

In the past, fat was seen basically as a padded layer that stored energy. Now, however, scientists are discovering that fat is a producer of hormones and proteins among other chemicals and compounds.

In comparisons between obese teenagers and lean teenagers, Wang observed greater levels of chemical change (also known as methylation) in the UBASH3A and TRIM3 genes of obese individuals. Both of these genes help to regulate the immune system. People who are obese often have dysregulated immune systems, which can lead to chronic inflammation, a contributor to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer.

According to Wang, scientists already knew these diseases are caused by dysregulation of immune functions, but they were unaware of the specific location that caused the dysregulation. Now that Wang has identified the methylation pattern in the UBASH3A and TRIM3 genes as one source of dysregulation, she wants to find out if fat causes these chemical changes in the DNA, or if the chemical changes cause the fat.

In order to develop new treatments and drugs for chronic inflammatory diseases, scientists must know the disease pathways, says Wang. Her findings add to a body of research that may help explain why obese individuals face a greater risk of chronic problems.

The study, which appears in the journal BMC Medicine, was conducted by Dr. Xiaoling Wang, a genetic epidemiologist at the Medical College of Georgia's Georgia Prevention Institute.

Review Date: 
January 21, 2011