Metabolic Syndrome
Genetics affect the severity of metabolic syndrome
Oct 25, 2005 - 10:00:38 PM

Hereditary factors appear to make obese individuals more susceptible to metabolic syndrome, a disorder associated with excess fat around the abdomen that increases the chances of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

"Our goal is to gain further understanding of the genetic events that contribute to the metabolic syndrome in obese individuals," said co-researcher Dr. Luigi Bouchard, Université Laval. "The knowledge of genes involved in that syndrome may have considerable public health implications."

Dr. Bouchard's research findings will be presented today at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress, hosted by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and the Canadian Cardiovascular Society.

More specifically, metabolic syndrome is defined as a cluster of health conditions including: high blood pressure, high levels of blood fats, insulin resistance, abdominal obesity, and low levels of good cholesterol.

Increased death rate associated with obesity can be explained by the presence of several of these health conditions that define metabolic syndrome. However, a significant proportion of obese individuals can escape many of the health conditions defining this syndrome and remain healthy, whereas other obese individuals show little to many of the metabolic complications associated with metabolic syndrome.

The research team, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) through the strategic initiative Obesity and Healthy Body Weight of the Institute of Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes, took a novel approach to the study of the severity of the metabolic syndrome in obese individuals. The study compared the gene expression profiles of the fat cells known as 'visceral adipose tissues' found within the abdominal cavity of obese men, with and without the metabolic syndrome.

"Obesity places a substantial burden on the health of Canadians," said Dr. Diane Finegood, Scientific Director, CIHR's Institute of Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes. "Understanding the biologic basis for obesity as a risk factor for co-morbidities such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes may lead to important new therapeutic approaches to preventing these devastating diseases."

"The work of Dr. Bouchard and his team could one day help us identify which obese individuals are most at risk of developing serious health complications", said Dr. Jacques Genest, a Heart and Stroke Foundation researcher and spokesperson.

The study found differences in the gene expression profiles between the study groups. Thereafter, a converging genomic approach was used to prioritize and increase our confidence in the proposed genetic targets that will be further studied. This approach compares differentially expressed genes to chromosomal regions that have been found to harbor metabolic syndrome-genes using a genome scan approach. In summary, this study shows that converging genomics is a powerful method to identify target genes for the metabolic syndrome.

"This kind of research is a perfect example of the multidisciplinary research environment encouraged at CIHR," said Dr. Bruce McManus, Scientific Director, CIHR's Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health.

Dr. Bouchard will be presented at the Congress with a Heart and Stroke Foundation/sanofi-aventis Fellowship Award for his work.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is the Government of Canada's agency for health research. CIHR's mission is to create new scientific knowledge and to catalyze its translation into improved health, more effective health services and products, and a strengthened Canadian health care system. Composed of 13 Institutes, CIHR provides leadership and support to close to 10,000 health researchers and trainees across Canada.

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