Researchers have found two genetic mutations associated with an increased risk for eating disorders, Medical Daily reported. The discovery potentially paves the way for new targeted treatments for diseases like anorexia and bulimia.
In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, researchers performed a genetic analysis on two separate families with high rates of eating disorders. For each family, researchers compared the genetic makeup of members who had been diagnosed with eating disorders to those who had no history of the disease.
"It's basically a matter of finding out what the people with the disorder share in common that people without the disease don't have," study author Dr. Michael Lutter said in a press release. “From a theoretical perspective, it's straightforward. But the difficulty comes in having a large enough group to find these rare genes. You have to have large families to get the statistical power.”
Through their analysis, researchers discovered mutations in two genes – estrogen-related receptor alpha (ESRRA) and histone deacetylase 4 (HDAC4) – among those who had been diagnosed with eating disorders. Both of these genes are associated with metabolic pathways in muscle and fat tissue, and they can be regulated by exercise, according to Medical Daily.
Researchers hope to expand their study to assess whether other people with eating disorders also have the same mutations. They hope that their findings might lead to the development of targeted therapies to treat eating disorders.