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Geisinger Gets Grant to Study Weight Loss Genetics

By a GenomeWeb Staff Reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Scientists at Geisinger Health System will use a grant from the National Institutes of Health to discover and find out if certain genetic variants may be involved in the failure of some obesity patients to lose weight even after gastric bypass surgery.

Researchers at the Geisinger Center for Nutrition and Weight Management plan to use the grant of roughly $2 million to study SNPs that have already been correlated with patients' failure to lose weight successfully after they had the surgery. In an earlier study of over 1,000 individuals with extreme obesity, patients who fared the poorest after having the surgery were found to have four key genes in common, Geisinger said Monday.

Led by Geisinger and partners from the Mid-Atlantic Nutrition Obesity Research Center at the University of Maryland, the study also will seek to identify genetic factors that may be involved in conditions such as diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

"Little is known about why some people are more successful than others at losing weight and maintaining the weight loss," Glenn Gerhard, director of the Geisinger Clinic Genomics Core and staff scientist at the Weis Center for Research, said in a statement.

"This study will determine whether certain genes affect how people lose weight and whether their medical problems improve. Identifying these factors may help guide which types of weight loss therapies should be performed for extremely obese individuals," Gerhard said.

The research will be based on the hypothesis that genetic variants may confer resistance to weight loss therapies. Only a few candidate genes have been studied so far in relation to diet and surgical weight loss, according to the researchers' grant proposal.

This study will conduct genotyping SNPs in individuals who have undergone a prudent hypocaloric weight loss program after gastric bypass surgery.

Next, the researchers will test for associations between these SNPs and weight loss outcomes, and then validate those results in independent cohorts. Direct sequencing of these candidate genes will then be used to help the scientists identify genes whose expression levels are associated with weight loss outcomes.

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