University of Ottawa Heart Institute Scientists Unlock Mechanism That Turns on Weight-Loss Gene

    OTTAWA, Feb. 17 /CNW Telbec/ - A University of Ottawa Heart Institute
(UOHI) research team has unlocked the mechanism that turns on a weight-loss
gene in muscle. A new UOHI study shows that the mechanism - a DNA sequence
variant identified as rs2419621 - increases the activity levels of ACSL5,
among the first genes associated with weight loss, and enables rapid weight
loss in people who are dieting.
    Heart Institute scientists working with The Ottawa Hospital Weight
Management Clinic had previously identified the ACSL5 gene, which influences
how quickly overweight people lose weight in response to diet. Unlocking the
mechanism to activate this gene represents a major step forward in developing
new treatments for chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular diseases and
diabetes, which are increased as a consequence of obesity. Diet and exercise
are both important in weight loss. But individual response to diet and
exercise vary dramatically - something that has long perplexed medical
    "Weight loss, especially among people who are dieting, is affected by
several factors and we've long suspected that personal genetic makeup is a
real influence. We are learning that genes which make you fat are not the same
as the genes that help you lose weight. And now we can put our finger on just
how the weight-loss gene is activated," said Alexandre Stewart, PhD, principal
investigator of the Ruddy Canadian Cardiovascular Genetics Research Centre,
    The UOHI research is expected to lead to the development of therapies to
fuel ACLS5 activity in people. Further, medical professionals will be able to
identify people who won't respond to diet and target drug treatment to help
them lose weight more quickly.
    Details of the latest UOHI discovery were published online in the Journal
of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
( The research was
undertaken by molecular biologists at UOHI's Ruddy Canadian Cardiovascular
Genetics Centre, led by Alexandre Stewart, PhD, and Frédérique Tesson, PhD.
    UOHI scientists found that the people who carry the ACSL5 DNA variant are
able to lose weight faster when following a low calorie diet than those who do
not. About 33% Caucasians carry this genetic variant, as do 50% of Blacks, and
29% of Orientals.
    Obesity and weight-related illness have been the focus of major
scientific projects at UOHI and is part of a global drive to fight obesity.
One UOHI research team led by Dr. Ruth McPherson has been investigating the
genetics behind obesity - considered a serious risk factor for coronary artery
disease. They are searching for patterns among obese people to help explain
why one obese person suffers from heart disease or diabetes when an equally
heavy person does not.
    "We know that controlling obesity is hugely important in managing serious
chronic disease such as heart disease and diabetes. But clearly we also know
the problem is much more complex than just teaching people how to eat better
and get more exercise. We need to understand the genetics and biology of
obesity in order to individualize treatment," said Dr. McPherson, Director of
the Lipid Clinic, UOHI.

    About UOHI

    The University of Ottawa Heart Institute is Canada's largest and foremost
cardiovascular health centre dedicated to understanding, treating and
preventing heart disease. We deliver high-tech care with a personal touch,
shape the way cardiovascular medicine is practiced, and revolutionize cardiac
treatment and understanding. We build knowledge through research and translate
discoveries into advanced care. We serve the local, national and international
community, and are pioneering a new era in heart health. For more information,

For further information:

For further information: Marlene Orton, Senior Manager, Public Affairs,
University of Ottawa Heart Institute, (613) 761-4427,

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Ottawa Heart Institute, University of Ottawa

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