Will Finding the Fat Gene Help Us?

In a scientific whodunnit, the scientists now say that gene FTO is no longer the cause of obesity. (here)  In a startling switch, the real culprit is now IRX3.  Coming next week, the culprit will be a small, round-topped gene called C3PO. But you’ll still see villain action figures of IRX3 on the shelves in time for Christmas.

But what does all of this mean to people trying to lose weight?

Beyond knowledge for knowledge’s sake, the point of finding the fat gene is supposed to lead to some advances.  The process should look like this: 1) find fat gene 2) find what turns off fat gene and 3) put a lot of what turns off the fat gene into Haagen-Daz and Ben and Jerry’s or 4) add it to all fast food, and especially chocolate.

What’s missing from the equation is something called histones. If you don’t remember the histones, they did a hit single back in the seventies, called: “I control your DNA.” Imagines histones as the packing clerks for your DNA.  Without the histones, the DNA stays unread. And the histones decide when, where, and what gets read and activated.  (study here) For the science geeks, this is called epigenetic regulation. (study here) For the weighty among us, this is why the perpetual search for a genetic cause of obesity is not likely to result in guilt-free premium ice cream (sob!).

Does this mean that the search  will end?  Do you think that grant dollars will dry up in the search for a cure for obesity? No. But there will be a new group included, hopefully called the histonologists, because that would mean I just coined the word.  According to the Mayo clinic, there are currently no job openings for histonologists, but just wait until next year.


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