The researchers here have discovered that obesity may be controlled by two genes within a genetic region called FTO. By switching a single nucleotide in these genes (equivalent to an SNP) they discovered that the genes affected the behaviour of adipocyte cells in fatty tissue, causing them to either burn or store fat.
"Obesity has traditionally been seen as the result of an imbalance between the amount of food we eat and how much we exercise, but this view ignores the contribution of genetics to each individual's metabolism," says senior author Manolis Kellis, a professor of computer science and a member of MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and of the Broad Institute.
As the article goes on to say: Follow-up experiments showed that these two genes, IRX3 and IRX5, act as master controllers of a process known as thermogenesis, whereby adipocytes dissipate energy as heat, instead of storing it as fat. Thermogenesis can be triggered by exercise, diet, or exposure to cold, and occurs both in mitochondria-rich brown adipocytes that are developmentally related to muscle, and in beige adipocytes that are instead related to energy-storing white adipocytes.
"By manipulating the pathway these genes control, we could switch between energy storage and energy dissipation programs at both the cellular and the organismal level, providing new hope for a cure against obesity," Kellis says.