New technology could uncover links between genetics and obesity

A new technology has been tested on the blood samples of 96 volunteers from the Orkney Complex Disease Study (ORCADES). It showed that specific cell surface proteins have genetic links to obesity.

Blood analysis laboratory

Obesity is a growing problem and is estimated to affect 1 in 4 adults. However, despite current technology, the genetics involved in obesity has been difficult to unpick. That’s due to the complex landscape of genetics and the environment involved.

In recent years, a new technology has been developed that could help to understand the link between genetics and obesity in greater detail. It’s called a proximity barcoding assay.

Researchers used this technology to analyse surface proteins – proteins embedded in the surface of cells. Specifically, researchers looked at the surface proteins of millions of extracellular vesicles. These are small sacs secreted by cells, which support transport and communication between cells during processes, such as the immune response.

As this was a new technology, researchers used the samples and data of a small sample of 96 ORCADES volunteers to test it.

They found that higher levels of extracellular vesicles were linked to lower levels of body fat. However, they found no link between high levels of extracellular vesicles and overall weight. Finally, they also found that genes linked to some extracellular vesicles are also involved in controlling blood cholesterol levels.

Together, these findings show that extracellular vesicles with specific surface proteins have links to both observable traits and genetics associated with obesity and fats in the blood.

Therefore, this research represents an opportunity for future larger-scale research using this technology. It is hoped that these findings may support future understanding and treatments for obesity.

This paper was published in the journal Human Molecular Genetics. To read more visit:

Genetic and phenotypic links between obesity and extracellular vesicles