Elsewhere – Researchers discover obesity gene

By Lisa Davis

The Daily Free Press (Boston U.)

(U-WIRE) BOSTON-Led by Boston University professors over an 18-month period, a group of scientists has found a link between a new genetic variant and obesity affecting 10 percent of the American population.

The study was conducted by 23 international scientists. There were about 100,000 participants from six different populations through the Framingham Heart Study.

“This is the first time that anyone has found a variation that is very common in many people,” Genetics and Genomics Department Chair Michael Christman said. “It’s one of the first studies that looked at the whole genome.”

Harvard School of Public Health biostatistics professor Nan Laird said the study was unique.

“We designed statistical methods, and it was our first opportunity to try it on real data,” she said. “I think of it as finding a piece of the puzzle.”

Laird said she believes the role of genetics versus environmental factors in obesity is “somewhat controversial.”

“There’s a tendency in society to discriminate against people who are obese,” Christman said. “What you eat and exercise is still part of the equation.”