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Brief Funct Genomic Proteomic. 2002 Oct;1(3):290-304.

Past, present and future strategies to study the genetics of body weight regulation.

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  • 1Cambridge Institute for Medical Research, University of Cambridge, UK.


Genetic advances have made remarkable progress towards our understanding of body weight regulation. Much of our current knowledge has come from the cloning and characterisation of the genes responsible for obesity syndromes in the mouse, and the identification of homologous mutations causing rare forms of obesity in humans. Gene targeting experiments in mice have been instrumental in confirming the importance of many genes in the aetiology of obesity, and the existence of a fundamental physiological pathway that controls energy balance is becoming clear. The genetic determinants that underlie common forms of human obesity are largely polygenic, with most genes producing small effects. Thus, elucidating the many genetic determinants of obesity is a current challenge for modern geneticists. Despite the inherent difficulties, progress has been made through linkage/association studies and a genetic map of quantitative trait loci for human obesity is beginning to emerge. Obesity research is now very much in a transition period. Not so long ago, access to high throughput screening, as well as microarray and proteomic techniques, was prohibitively expensive and available only to the few. In recent years, these technologies have become more accessible to the larger scientific community and, in this paper, we will discuss how such technological advances are likely to drive the next wave of progress in obesity research. For example, large-scale mutagenesis screens in rodents coupled with high throughput screening are likely to emerge as important technologies for identifying genes previously unexpected to be involved in body weight regulation. Furthermore, applications of microarray and proteomic techniques will further refine our understanding of currently known peptides as well as identify novel pathways and molecules which are involved in energy homeostasis.

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