Identifying an Obesity Gene

The phenomenon of obesity has reached proportions of a global epidemic. Current data indicates that over a billion adults worldwide suffer from overweight and over three hundred million from obesity. The number of overweight children under the age of 5 has reached approximately 42 million, in the USA alone over 9 million children and youth over the age of 6 are overweight or obese.

A new research study led by Dr. Adel Shalata, Head of the Genetic Institute at the Ziv Medical Center, has identified one more gene which is responsible for the phenomenon of obesity, opening new research avenues for understanding the mechanism of obesity, and future possibilities for developing medication for treating both weight gain and under-nourishment. This significant research was published in a leading international medical journal in the field of Genetics - AJHG – the American Journal of Human Genetics.

Dr. Shalata located a large Arab family in northern Israel, with a history of intermarriage. Many of the family members suffer from extreme obesity (weights ranging from 120 – 180 kg.), with complications such as high blood pressure, unstable fats and glucose levels and even diabetes. Dr. Shalata and his research colleagues from Mt. Sinai University in NY, succeeded in isolating a new gene named CEP – 19, which when not functioning, causes extreme obesity and is responsible for the numerous cases of obesity in the family.

Dr. Shalata notes that it is possible to establish that the hereditary factor in obesity ranges between 40% and 90%. Despite the enormous resources which have been invested in the study of Genetics worldwide, very few genes have been identified as responsible for obesity and today only 10% of the hereditary obesity cases can be explained. "Each new gene which is identified as involved in obesity enables us to understand the phenomenon and opens new avenues for research. We believe that the research we are currently working on in this field and which will be continued in the future, will contribute greatly to the understanding of the activity mechanism and the biological track in which the gene works, something that will lead to the location of additional genes in the body's energy system. This discovery contributes to the research in this field and will enable the development of new medications for the treatment of obesity and diabetes", says Shalata.

Dr. Oscar Embon, Director of Ziv Medical Center says that the new findings in Dr. Shalata's research will contribute greatly to the understanding of the phenomenon of obesity, which brings with it many additional diseases and has become a worldwide health and economic burden. "Every new discovery in this field advances the research which is searching for an explanation of this severe problem. I hope that Dr. Shalata's findings are an additional stage towards understanding this phenomenon. Dr. Shalata is a first rate researcher and has conducted groundbreaking research in a number of different fields. I am proud that Ziv's Genetic Institute is headed by such a highly skilled person and hope that this research, as well as future research, will lead advancements in medicine in general and in the Galilee area in particular" says Dr. Embon.