21 April 2015

Eating disorders: not only psychology, but also genetics

Biologists have revealed the genetic roots of anorexia and bulimia

RIA News

The loss or temporary shutdown of the ESRRA gene turns mice, and especially females, into real anorexics who refuse high-calorie food even when they are very hungry, according to an article published in the journal Cell Reports (Cui et al., Behavioral Disturbances in Estrogen-Related Receptor alpha-Null Mice, in the public domain – VM).

"We have shown that this gene and disorders in its work can be one of the risk factors that affect the development of anorexia or bulimia. Of course, social factors, such as the Western ideal of slimness for women, influence their appearance. Most likely, the spread of these diseases in recent years is related to society, not genetics," said Michael Lutter from the University of Iowa in Iowa City (in a press release Study advances understanding of eating disorders – VM).

Lutter and his colleagues observed the behavior of mice in whose genome they disabled or damaged genes whose analogues in the human genome are associated with obesity and other metabolic disorders.

When geneticists damaged the ESRRA gene, which is responsible for the readability of many other DNA sites in brain neurons, the behavior of mice changed dramatically. When such rodents were starving, they put noticeably less effort to get food, and also did not prefer to eat food with a high fat content, which animals with a normal copy of this gene do.

In addition, these rodents, and especially females, suffered from other characteristic symptoms of anorexia – problems with communicating with others and obsessive-compulsive disorder, which manifested itself in a manic desire to lick their fur.

Convinced of the existence of a genetic background of anorexia and bulimia, Lutter's group tried to find out which part of the brain these diseases are associated with, alternately disabling ESRRA in different parts of the nervous system. As it turned out, the most noticeable changes occur in the prefrontal and ocular-frontal cortex of the brain. Violations in the first department are associated with an unwillingness to look for and eat high–calorie food, and in the second - with neuroses.

In the near future, scientists will try to find ways to restore the work of this gene in these parts of the brain or at least neutralize the negative effects associated with its breakdown. According to biologists, if they manage to do this, it will open the way for the creation of gene therapy or drugs to combat anorexia and bulimia.

Portal "Eternal youth" http://vechnayamolodost.ru21.04.2015

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