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Scientists find new gene linked to body shape

Tue, Mar 24, 2015, 02:57 PM
Washington, March 24, 2015: Scientists have found a new gene linked to body fat distribution in research that may help explain why you have an apple or pear shape.

Researchers from the Duke University reported on Monday in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that a gene called Plexin D1 could control both where fat is stored and how fat cells are shaped, known factors in health and even the risk of future disease, Xinhua news agency reported.

"This work identifies a new molecular pathway that determines how fat is stored in the body, and as a result, affects overall metabolic health," said senior author John Rawls, associate professor of molecular genetics and microbiology at Duke University School of Medicine.

"Moving forward, the components of that pathway can become potential targets to address the dangers associated with visceral fat accumulation."

The researchers chose zebrafish for this study since their transparent bodies were easy to observe and found those genetically engineered to lack Plexin D1 had less abdominal or visceral fat, the kind that lends some humans a characteristic apple shape, than their normal counterparts.

Previous research has shown that people with an apple shape are more likely to develop diabetes and heart disease than those who have bigger hips and thighs, also described as being pear-shaped.

The same effect was observed in zebrafish. Those who were knocked out of the gene were protected from insulin resistance, a precursor of diabetes, even after eating a high-fat diet.

And that may be because that the visceral fat tissue of the mutant zebrafish was composed of smaller, but more numerous cells, which the researchers said were known to decrease the risk of insulin resistance and metabolic disease in humans.
Agency: IANS
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