Scientists discover genes linking puberty timing to body fat in women
Researchers at King’s College London’s Department of Twin Research have discovered, as part of a large international consortium, 30 new genes that control the age of sexual maturation in women, the Journal Nature Genetics publishes today.
Many of these genes are also known to act on body weight regulation or biological pathways related to fat metabolism. This large new study of more than 100,000 women from Europe, US and Australia highlights several specific genetic links between early puberty and body fat.
Puberty in women normally occurs between 11 – 14 years of age. If a child reaches a particular weight (around 45 kg), the onset of puberty is triggered. The heavier the child, the earlier puberty occurs, possibly affecting risk of later disease.
The study also found genes involved in hormone regulation, cell development and other mechanisms linked to age at menarche (the onset of menstrual periods in women), and this shows that puberty timing is controlled by a complex range of biological processes.
Massimo Mangino, author from the Twin Research Department at King’s, says: ‘It is fascinating how common genetic variants influence both early puberty and weight gain. The findings give us clues on how intricately linked are different biological processes.’
Professor Tim Spector, Director of Twins UK cohort said: ‘This study shows the power of large genetic collaborations allowing us great insights into how puberty is triggered by precise amounts of body fat. Twin pairs are very similar for both puberty and body fat.’
Notes to editors:
The Nature Genetics paper, ‘Thirty new loci for age at menarche identified by a meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies’, is available on request.
The researchers are extremely grateful to all study participants for making this research possible. The investigators would also like to acknowledge the support provided by the Wellcome Trust and the Department of Health via the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) comprehensive Biomedical Research Centre award to Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in partnership with King’s College London.
The comprehensive Biomedical Research Centre
The comprehensive Biomedical Research Centre at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London, is one of five National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) comprehensive Biomedical Research Centres in England. With its strong focus on ‘translational research’ across seven research themes and a number of cross-cutting disciplines, it aims to take advances in basic medical research out of the laboratory and into the clinical setting to benefit patients at the earliest opportunity. Access to the uniquely diverse patient population of London and the south east enables it to drive forward research into a wide range of diseases and medical conditions.
King’s College London
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Contact: Emma Reynolds
King’s College London