For years, individuals with eating disorders have been mysterious freaks of nature, confusing the medical profession for centuries. Dedicated scientists have conjured up a countless amount of theories as to why people adopt these dangerous behaviors around food. They range from young women starving themselves just for the attention to being the victim of poor parenting. Now, there is a new discovery that may change how we look at eating disorders and maybe even help us figure out who is at risk.
At the University of Iowa and University of Texas Southwestern they took two families who throughout many generations, have been plagued with eating disorders. They discovered that each of these families had a different genetic mutation – one with the ESRRA gene and the HDAC4 gene. What made things even more startling was the fact that if people had one of these genes, they could have an 80 – 95% chance being taken hostage by ED. The ESRRA gene plays a big role in the transcription of DNA to RNA, allowing other genes to be expressed. In an individual with an eating disorder, the ESRRA gene’s activity is decreased. The second gene that was found in one of the families is known as the HDAC4 gene and its line of duty is to turn off transcription factors, like ESRRA.
Ok, so how are these two genes related and what on earth do they have to do with eating disorders? Well, both HDAC4 and ESRRA seem to interact with each other and also are used in similar processes, such as body weight homeostasis, movement, and neuronal plasticity. This suggests that both of these genes could be possibly acting on a biological pathway that predisposes individuals to eating disorders.
The dedicated researchers in this study plan on continuing to investigate this new revelation and hope to use this knowledge to create more effective, state-of-the-art ED treatments that target the defective genes. I don’t know about you, but just the idea of having targeted therapies available for those of us with eating disorders sounds like a dream come true. Though currently there are different treatment and therapy regimes available for those of us with an ED, we all know they are very unsuccessful. I mean, most of the friends from treatment I know have relapsed more times than you can count on both of your hands and I know I’ve let ED get the better of me as well. By having treatments that will treat the biological cause of the disorder, patients who have been deemed to suffer from a chronic eating disorder, can finally have some hope of living the life they deserve.
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