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科学家通过基因预测体形

2006-07-28 15:14

  Scientists have long known that genes are the software of life, determining what a creature will look like and where the parts go.

  “Genes tell the body where the head goes and where the tail goes, what goes on the front and what goes on the back,” explains C. Ronald Kahn of the Harvard Medical School and president of the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston.

  No news there. But without looking at you, Kahn can examine a sample of your genes and tell you if you're shaped like an hourglass or a pear and whether you have huge hips or a beer belly.

  “By looking at your genes, we can tell how fat you are and how your body fat will be distributed,” Kahn said yesterday.

  Fat genes

  Some experts have called obesity an epidemic. The condition has been linked to genetics, but many researchers say poor diet and lack of exercise have played a role in the increase of obesity. Some even suspect it could be contagious. But anyone who thinks logically about it can imagine that we might inherit the tendency, just like blue eyes or big noses.

  Figuring it all out is of great importance, because obese people are at greater risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and more. Specifically, those shaped like apples— with their fat concentrated in the abdomen—are at much higher risk for diabetes.

  Kahn's team examined the genes in fat around internal organs and under the skin of nearly 200 people thin and fat and in between, as well as in some mice.

  Three genes—named Tbx15, Gpc4, and HoxA5—express themselves so distinctly that the differences can be used to predict a person's body mass index (BMI) and waist-to-hip ratio.

  “This finding suggests that the expression of these genes could be related to the pathogenesis [production and development] of obesity,” said Joslin researcher Stephane Gesta.

  The results are published in the latest issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

  Now what?

  The study raises huge questions: Does body shape predict obesity, or is it a result of obesity?

  “While we don't know yet whether this genetic activity is a cause or an effect of obesity,” Gesta said, “these data do suggest that different forms of obesity could be a developmental problem that begins very early in life.”

  And an even bigger one: Can you alter the potentially deadly fate your body shape might suggest is in store?

  “Now that's the big question,” Kahn said. “While we now can predict the fat pattern, we have no magic bullet to alter the outcome. But with these new findings, we have identified potential targets for perhaps one day changing body shape. We don't have drugs to alter the pattern now, but perhaps in the future we will.”

  究竟是肥是瘦?美国科学家通过基因预测体形科学家们长时间以来一直认为,基因是生命的软件,它能决定生物体的样子和其身体各部分的生长情况。现在,美国科学家们又对基因有了新的了解和认识。

  通过基因预测体形

  据美国《生活科学》4月11日报道,现在,美国波士顿乔士林糖尿病研究中心的负责人、美国哈佛大学医学院的罗纳德-卡恩教授不需要看见你,只需要对你的基因样本进行分析就能准确说出你的体形是沙漏形的还是梨形的;而且他还能说出你的臀部是否丰满或者你是不是有个啤酒肚。

  卡恩教授说:“通过查看你的基因,我们能够说出你现在有多胖,以及你身体中的脂肪将会如何分布。”

  身体肥胖可以遗传?

  人们对于肥胖问题的研究可谓不计其数。一些专家曾认为肥胖是一种流行疾病,人们也曾把肥胖和遗传基因联系在了一起。但众多研究人员表示,不良饮食和缺乏运动是导致肥胖人数日渐增多的重要因素。

  有些人甚至猜测,肥胖可能具有传染性。但是,任何一个从逻辑上考虑这个问题的人都能联想到,人们可能会通过遗传来继承这一倾向,就像人们从父母那里继承到蓝眼睛或者大鼻子一样。

  弄清这一问题可谓是意义重大。因为,身体肥胖的人通常更容易患上糖尿病、心血管疾病、癌症或者其他疾病。尤其是那些“苹果身材”的人(体内脂肪大多集中在腹部),他们患糖尿病的危险还要更大一些。

  3种特殊的基因表达

  卡恩领导的研究小组对大约200名参与者的皮下脂肪组织及内脏周围脂肪组织内的基因进行了分析研究。这些参与者包括偏瘦、较胖以及不胖不瘦各种体形的人。研究人员还在实验室中用老鼠进行了类似的研究。

  研究人员发现,3种分别名为Tbx15、 Gpc4和HoxA5的基因自身表达形式非常特别,因此它们的区别可以被用来预测一个人的身体质量指数(Body Mass Index)和臀部肥胖率。乔士林糖尿病研究中心的研究人员史蒂芬尼·盖斯塔对此发表看法说,研究结果显示,这些基因的表达可能和肥胖症的发病机理有关。

  研究仍需进一步深入

  这一研究也引发了一些问题,如体形可以预测肥胖,还是它只是肥胖造成的一个结果?对此,盖斯塔说:“虽然目前,我们尚不清楚这种基因活动是导致肥胖的原因,还是由它引起的相应后果。但是,这些数据确实可以说明,肥胖的不同形式可能是一个从很早就开始的逐渐发展的问题。”

  报道说,这一研究结果发表在最新一期的美国《国家科学院学报》上。

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