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Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Apr;26(2):133-43. doi: 10.1016/j.beem.2011.11.010.

Genetic testing in patients with obesity.

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Endocrinology-Diabetology Unit, Department of Pediatrics, CHUV, University Hospital, Lausanne, Switzerland.


The obesity epidemic is associated with the recent availability of highly palatable and inexpensive caloric food as well as important changes in lifestyle. Genetic factors, however, play a key role in regulating energy balance and numerous twin studies have estimated the BMI heritability between 40 and 70%. While common variants, identified through genome-wide association studies (GWAS) point toward new pathways, their effect size are too low to be of any use in the clinic. This review therefore concentrates on genes and genomic regions associated with very high risks of human obesity. Although there are no consensus guidelines, we review how the knowledge on these "causal factors" can be translated into the clinic for diagnostic purposes. We propose genetic workups guided by clinical manifestations in patients with severe early-onset obesity. While etiological diagnoses are unequivocal in a minority of patients, new genomic tools such as Comparative Genomic Hybridization (CGH) array, have allowed the identification of novel "causal" loci and next-generation sequencing brings the promise of accelerated pace for discoveries relevant to clinical practice.

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