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Genetics

Bariatric surgery causes genetic alterations

Credit: ApersOn
Discovery could lead to the development of new drugs that mimic weight-loss-associated control of gene regulation

Bariatric surgery can change the levels of genes involved in burning and storing fat, according to a study published in the journal Cell Reports.

"We provide evidence that in severely obese people, the levels of specific genes that control how fat is burned and stored in the body are changed to reflect poor metabolic health," siad senior author Professor Juleen Zierath, of the Karolinska Institutet, in Stockholm, Sweden. "After surgery, the levels of these genes are restored to a healthy state, which mirrors weight loss and coincides with overall improvement in metabolism."

The researchers examined the gene-expression alterations in individuals who underwent the surgery compared with obese individuals who did not and they found that weight loss after surgery causes changes in DNA modifications that control gene expression in response to the environment.

Specifically, changes in methylation or chemical markings, on two genes that control glucose and fat metabolism (called PGC-1alpha and PDK4) correlate with obesity but are reversed after surgery-induced weight loss.

The outcomes suggest that the environment - food intake or weight loss - can affect gene expression through this mechanism.

"The novelty of our work originates with the finding that DNA methylation is altered by weight loss," said first author Romain Barrès, of the University of Copenhagen, in Denmark.

The results provide evidence that obesity and RYGB-induced weight loss have a dynamic effect on the inherited changes in phenotype (appearance) or gene expression caused.

The findings may help lead to the development of new drugs that mimic this weight-loss-associated control of gene regulation.

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