Anorexia Tied To Specific Gene In New Study

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Eating disorders are often thought of as “an issue with weight” or as a behavioral reaction to body image problems. The truth is that eating disorders like anorexia are diseases that are deeply ingrained in the mind and body through a combination of genetics and environment.

A recent study published in the journal Translational Psychiatry by an international team of scientists helps bring this more into focus than ever before, as the team claims to have directly linked anorexia to a specific gene.

The team, led by researchers at the UC San Diego School of Medicine, say they used stem cells from adolescent girls diagnosed with anorexia to create the first cellular model of the disease.

“Though often viewed as a non-biological disorder, new research suggests 50 to 75 percent of risk for AN may be heritable, with predisposition driven primarily by genetics and not, as sometimes presumed, by vanity, poor parenting or factors related to specific groups of individuals,” explained the scientists in a statement.

“Anorexia is a very complicated, multifactorial neurodevelopmental disorder,” said Alysson Muotri, professor in the UC San Diego School of Medicine departments of Pediatrics and Cellular and Molecular Medicine. “It has proved to be a very difficult disease to study, let alone treat.”

“We don’t actually have good experimental models for eating disorders,” she said. “In fact, there are no [pharmaceutical] treatments to reverse anorexia nervosa symptoms.”

The research is just the beginning. If the model can be confirmed, it could open the door to new medical treatments and preventative methods to combat anorexia – especially in those most at risk for developing the eating disorder.

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