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Scientists identify gene variants linked to obesity risk

A study led by MRC researchers has identified genetic variants in two genes that have some of the largest impacts on obesity risk discovered to date.


Person measuring waistband

The discovery of rare variants in the genes ‘BSN’ and ‘APBA1’ are some of the first obesity-related genes identified for which the increased risk of obesity is not observed until adulthood.


The study, published in ‘Nature Genetics’, was led by researchers at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Epidemiology Unit and the MRC Metabolic Diseases Unit at the Institute of Metabolic Science, both based at the University of Cambridge.


The researchers used UK Biobank and other data to perform whole exome sequencing of body mass index (BMI) in over 500,000 individuals.


They found that genetic variants in the gene BSN, also known as Bassoon, can raise the risk of obesity as much as six times and was also associated with an increased risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and of type 2 diabetes.


The Bassoon gene variants were found to affect one in 6,500 adults, so could affect about 10,000 people in the UK.


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