Understanding Vulnerability to Obesity

Friday, 14 February 2014
Regency C (Hyatt Regency Chicago)
Paul J. Kenny , Scripps Research Institute, Jupiter, FL
Obesity and overweight together are the second leading cause of preventable death in the US and a major cause of premature death in all developed, and increasingly developing, countries. Global science is only beginning to understand why variation in our genetic material can increase our vulnerability to develop food dependence and become obese. Recent clinical and preclinical findings have shed important new light on the mechanisms by which genetic variation can increase vulnerability to gain weight. They evidence the fundamental importance of better understanding gene and environment interactions. In this presentation, I will discuss new findings made in conjunction with teams of global researchers on the genetics of obesity. In particular, I will show how genetic variation in the dopamine D2 receptor (D2R) can increase vulnerability to develop compulsive eating and gain weight. I will also explain how D2R variation interacts with so-called "obesogenic" environments to control risk of weight gain. Together, these findings will highlight the important contribution that our genes make to vulnerability to weight gain, while equally evidencing how many of the underlying mechanisms remain unknown.