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Scientists Spot Genes Tied to Puberty, Body Fat in Girls

SUNDAY, Nov. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists have pinpointed 30 genes that control the timing of puberty in females. They also believe many of these genes also play a role in body weight regulation or fat metabolism.

The international team of researchers analyzed 32 genome-wide association studies that included more than 87,000 women from Australia, Europe and the United States. Thet then performed replication studies in another group of almost 15,000 women.

In addition to the two genes already known to play a role in the timing of puberty, the team identified 30 new genes and suggestive evidence for another 10 genes.

The newly identified genes include four that have previously been associated with body mass index (a clinical measure of ewight), three that play a role in metabolism, and three that play a role in hormone regulation, according to the report, which is scheduled to be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Nature Genetics.

"Our study found genes involved in hormone regulation, cell development and other biological pathways associated with mechanisms age at menarche [onset of first menstruation], which shows that the timing of puberty is controlled by a complex range of biological processes," senior author Dr. Joanne Murabito, an associate professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, said in a university news release.

"Several of the genes for menarche have been associated with body weight and obesity in other studies suggesting some women may have a genetic susceptibility to weight gain and early puberty," she added. "It is important to understand that these 'genetic factors' can be modified by changes in lifestyle. Efforts to reduce or prevent childhood obesity should in turn help reduce the early onset of puberty in girls."

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has more about puberty.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Boston University Medical Center, news release, Nov. 21, 2010

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