Genetic Risk Factors For Anorexia Nervosa Sought

norexia. The most likely finding, Berrettini says, is that several interacting susceptibility genes are involved.

Treatments available for anorexia are limited in their long-term effectiveness, and patients are prone to relapse. Berrettini suggests that improved therapies might be one eventual result of the discovery of genetic risk factors for anorexia.

"There is not a single government-approved medicine to treat anorexia," Berrettini says. "It's our hope that if we can find susceptibility genes, we will then be able to develop better treatments for the disorder."

An understanding that anorexia is partly inherited would also help lessen the stigma that sometimes attaches to the disease, he observes.

The method Berrettini's team is using to analyze the DNA samples collected is called the affected sibling pair method. It relies on the statistical fact that any two siblings will share, on average, half of their DNA sequences. If multiple pairs of siblings with an illness are found to share a particular region of DNA more often than half the time, it raises the possibility that a risk gene for that illness may lie along that stretch of the genome, prompting the scientists to perform a closer analysis of that segment of DNA.

According to Berrettini, anorexia nervosa is defined as an eating disorder characterized by a refusal to ingest sufficient quantities of food to maintain 85 percent or more of normal body weight, an irrational fear of obesity, and a distorted body image of being overweight when emaciated. Women suffer from anorexia at rates ten times higher than men, and the disorder also occurs most often among women of middle and upper socio-economic standing. Abuse of laxatives and excessive exercise to promote weight loss are common behavioral symptoms among anorexic women. Patients often experience amenorrhea, the suspension of normal me

Contact: Franklin Hoke
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

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