Epigenetic switch turns obesity “On” or “Off”

February 04, 2016

It is well known that a predisposition to adiposity lies in our genes. Researchers in the lab of Andrew Pospisilik, a member of the German DEEP project that is part of IHEC, showed that epigenetic changes play a key role in the inheritance of obesity. The scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics in Freiburg discovered an epigenetic switch, which causes individuals with identical genetic material, such as monozygotic twins, to be either lean or obese. Interestingly, much like a classical light switch there are only two discrete outcomes (ON and OFF, or rather OBESE and NOT OBESE), not continuous increments as with a dimmer. These new insights fundamentally alter our understanding of how epigenetics influences gene outcomes.

The paper “Trim28 Haploinsufficiency Triggers Bi-stable Epigenetic Obesity” has now been published in Cell.

Watch a video abstract here which explains the findings in a short and easy way.