Health and Disease

The War of Genes vs Disease

Throughout time, obesity has been a disease that scientists have been researching. Although stated to be caused by unhealthy behaviors and eating habits, scientists discovered a different cause–genetic variants.

Throughout the past several years, you have definitely heard speculations, observations, and many theories regarding the dramatic increase in obesity rates of individuals in the United  States. For over a decade, scientists have been experimenting and attempting to discover genes, alleles, and other genetic material that may contribute to obesity. However, scientists did discover that clusters of cells were found to play a pivotal role in the development of obesity. Although it had taken time for scientists to further study this phenomenon in-depth, they established that there is a myriad of genetic variants present that contribute towards the rate.

This idea was determined by the combination of two sets of data that involved an analysis of a person’s health, their specific attributes, and a separate set of single-cell RNA sequencing data. The first set of data, associated with humans, involved finding information about one’s genome and their body weight. For the second set of data, information was found about unique genetic codes and different portions of the genomes of the mouse populations. When both sets of data were combined to be accurate, scientists concluded that the genetic variants that contributed towards obesity were present in 26 disparate cell populations. This indicated that individuals with obesity had a higher chance of having identical genetic variants with one another.

Given from prior research, scientists know that the brain is the foundation for diseases and it is a region that controls the body’s needs for food and energy. Obesity is an intricate disease that involves more than just excessive body fat; It involves unhealthy habits, risks of other illnesses, and other detrimental effects. It is suggested that clusters of cells that process actions related to habits and eating contribute towards an individual’s rate of obesity. Recent findings also revealed that specific forms of brain cells determine the response and vulnerability to obesity. These are enthralling ideas that have been analyzed more deeply and are still being further looked at before coming to a final conclusion.

In late August, there were reports regarding how transplanted brown-fat-like cells were linked to reducing risks of obesity and diabetes, compared to human white fat cells that are existing in the body. This discovery shows the complex relationship between the body cells and the diseases in the human body. The way that cells interact and generally respond to sensory behaviors determines a lot of attributes of our health. Although there isn’t sufficient data to terminate all chances of acquiring obesity, scientists are getting much closer to putting together the pieces to prevent obesity at a higher rate and dissect the genetic traits behind this disease.


  • Pascal N Timshel, Jonatan J Thompson, Tune H Pers. Genetic mapping of etiologic brain cell types for obesity. eLife, 2020

Sajia Athai, Youth Medical Journal 2020


By Sajia Athai

Sajia Athai is a student at Stuyvesant High School in New York. She is interested in the fields of neurology, medicine, research, and pediatrics.

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