Researchers discover epigenetic mechanism that could affect risk of obesity-related disease

Posted by pt91 at Mar 19, 2014 02:10 PM |
Study examines impact of body weight on DNA methylation

A University of Leicester cardiology expert has led a study that identifies a new epigenetic mechanism that may play a role in mediating some of the harmful effects of becoming overweight, such as diabetes.

Professor Nilesh Samani (pictured), British Heart Foundation Professor of Cardiology in our Department of Cardiovascular Sciences, has led one of the largest epigenome-wide association studies (EWAS) to date, published in The Lancet.

In this study, the researchers looked at epigenetic changes in DNA in relation to body mass index (BMI), a widely used measure of obesity. One particular type of epigenetic change, a process known as DNA methylation, was examined. DNA methylation involves specific locations along the DNA called cytosine bases, which are modified by the addition of methyl chemical groups.

According to Professor Samani, obesity increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and a host of other problems, but we know little about the mechanisms by which obesity increases such risk. Epigenetic changes caused by variation in DNA or environmental factors such as diet, stress, and exposure to chemicals can affect the way genes work (are turned on and off) and may also influence disease susceptibility.