Gene variant associated with obesity risk found with new statistical technique

Boston, MA A pioneering statistical technique developed at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) has helped identify a common gene variation associated with an increased risk for obesity. The finding, which has been replicated in four other samples of children and of adults of European and African ancestry, provides an unusually strong association between a gene variant and a complex disease in the field of association mapping.

The study involved an international team led by researchers at the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) in collaboration with researchers at HSPH, Children's Hospital Boston, GSF National Research Center, Technical University Munich, Ludwig Maximilians University, Channing Laboratory, University of Duisburg-Essen, Loyola University Medical Center, and SeraCare Life Sciences Inc. The paper will appear in the April 14 issue of Science.

The scientists identified the variant by testing 86,604 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), or DNA sequence variations, for an association to body mass index (BMI), a surrogate measurement for obesity. The SNPs came from blood samples from participants in the Framingham Heart Study (FHS). BMI measurements were gathered by FHS investigators under a contract from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute administered by Boston University.

Researchers at the BUSM Genetics and Genomics Department, led by lead author and Assistant Professor Alan Herbert and senior author and Department Chair Michael Christman, genotyped the samples, identifying genetic variations within them for comparison. The large-scale genotyping was enabled by 100K DNA microarray technology developed by Affymetrix, a company based in Santa Clara, Calif. Data management and analysis was done by Drs. Norman Gerry and Marc Lenburg at BUSM and HSPH research fellow Matthew McQueen.

The identification of the SNP was made possible by a new statistical technique developed by HSPH Assistant Professor Chri

Contact: Christina Roache
Harvard School of Public Health

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