(Oct. 3, 2002, Gazette)
|Photo by Chris Hammond
Dr. Guang Sun
The battle of the bulge is becoming an epidemic in Canada over
50 per cent of Canadians are overweight and about 15 per cent of adults
20 to 64 years of age are obese. While overeating may initially seem
to be the problem, scientists are investigating the role that genetics
plays in determining our body weight.
Dr. Guang Sun, assistant professor of Medicine, Division of Genetics,
recently received a CFI grant to purchase equipment for a DNA microarray
facility to assist in his research. This facility, the first of its
kind in Newfoundland, allows Dr. Sun and his team to measure approximately
20,000 genes in one gene chip in each experiment.
Since the human genome contains between 35,000-40,000 genes in total,
that means that each experiment can focus on about half the number of
genes in the body, a far larger number than is feasible with other methods.
This means that the chances of isolating the genes linked to obesity
are much greater than ever before. Dr. Sun feels that this will revolutionize
biomedical research, and provide future benefits to health care as a
Dr. Suns short-term goals entail an experiment involving young
adult males, some overweight and some within the normal weight range.
He intends to study the effect of endurance exercise on the gene expression
profiles of the skeletal muscle and fat tissue. He hopes to discover
the genetic reasons why overweight people seem to have so much trouble
losing the weight, even when they incorporate diet and exercise into
their daily lives.
Although many people believe that obesity is caused by overeating and
a lack of exercise, Dr. Sun pointed out that genes play an important
Your body weight is at least partly determined by your genetic
background. Theres a setting point in your body, thats difficult
to overcome. He explained that in the future, individualized medications
may allow doctors to create a new setting point in the bodies
of the overweight, essentially overriding their genetic predisposition
to obesity and making it easier to control body weight.
And shedding the pounds will help prevent other illnesses as well. Dr.
Sun noted, excess body fat will cause many other health problems
like Type II diabetes, certain kinds of cancer, and cardiovascular diseases
like heart attacks and hypertension.
Not only does obesity endanger the health of the individual, but it
also increases the burden on our already strained health care system.
Dr. Sun hopes that, by furthering the knowledge of the genetic link
to obesity, his research will be of benefit to all.
For more information, or to volunteer to participate in Dr. Suns
study, you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
or by phone at 777-6454.