Study finds new molecular association with obesity


A recent study identified 45 genes with gene expressions associated with body mass index (BMI) in a multiethnic cohort.

The study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, was led by Ethan Lange, PhD, and Leslie Lange, PhD, of the Department of Biomedical Informatics (DBMI) at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. For the investigation, researchers sought to discover novel gene associations with obesity to better understand the biology of the condition.

Researchers used data from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) which collected health information related to cardiovascular disease risk factors on 6,000 participants starting in the year 2000. A related project known as Trans-Omics for Precision Medicine (TOPMed) consortium launched in 2014 which gathered gene expression and other omics data of a subset of MESA participants.

For this investigation, scientists analyzed RNA sequencing data collected from four self-identified race and ethnic groups in the TOPMed MESA cohort including African American, Chinese American, Hispanic, and white. In doing so, researchers assessed the association between each gene and how it impacted BMI. According to the study, characteristics related to cardiovascular disease and obesity are similar, so the health information collected for the MESA cohort was helpful for obesity research as well.  

Scientists identified 45 genes that had expressions associated with BMI across all four groups, many of them novel associations. According to the study’s authors, these results highlight the need for greater diversity in obesity research to best identity potential biomarkers of the condition as well as therapeutic targets.