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Medical Breakthrough: Genetics May Cause Anorexia, Other Forms Of Weight Loss

Researchers in Lausanne, Switzerland have discovered a chromosome anomaly in very skinny people that may explain pathologies that cause people to stop eating.

Medical Breakthrough: Genetics May Cause Anorexia, Other Forms Of Weight Loss
Caroline Depecker

LAUSANNE – Extreme thinness is a disease with diverse, hard-to-identify origins. Once other ailments are excluded, specialists tend to look at the possibility that excessive weight loss is brought on by social and psychological factors, such as those that causeanorexia nervosa.

But now, a team of French and Swiss researchers has turned the focus to genetics. In a study published by the British journal Nature, the research team shows evidence of surplus copies of certain chromosomal sections in the genome of those suffering from the disease.

"Just eat a little something…" Children scorning their food, losing their appetite, becoming nothing but skin and bones, getting worryingly thin. Because of inadequate caloric intake, the body has no choice but to stop growing.

"When faced with these kinds of patients, pediatricians feel like the parents: helpless', said SĂ©bastien Jacquemont of the Medical Genetics Service at Lausanne's University Hospital, and one of the study's main authors. "Being underweight, as is the case for one to three percent of toddlers, is like a black box: we have no knowledge of its diagnostical limits or internal workings'.

For adults, extreme thinness is defined by their body mass index (BMI), which is a ratio of weight and height. Being underweight is defined as having a body mass index below 18.5. This is no trifling pathology, as it is said to affect 10 to 15% of the population, surprisingly close to the rate of those overweight: 15 to 20%.

Last year, Professor Jacques Beckmann of the University of Lausanne (UNIL) made a groundbreaking discovery about cases of morbid obesity: having only one copy of a particular fragment of chromosome 16 (instead of the usual two) could be responsible for being overweight.

But what could be the opposite effect of this genetic anomaly on weight? In other words, what might it entail if someone had three copies of this chromosomal fragment –that is, one too many? To answer that question, the team of scientists collected data from about 100 international laboratories. They gathered information concerning more than 100,000 patients, 138 of whom carried this particular genetic anomaly. Researchers demonstrated that such adult patients were 7 to 20 times more likely to be underweight than the rest of the population.

"This factor of genetic risk is four times greater than that of developing cholesterol-related heart diseases', said Philippe Froguel, a professor at the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, another lead researcher on the study. "Such a high level of risk shows that the patient's environment and choices only play a minor part in the evolution of the disease."

But the same is not true when it comes to children. The study showed that 50% of the people carrying that chromosomal anomaly were underweight. However, various factors (like exercising, or a healthy family environment, among others) could still change a lot of things during the evolution of the disease.

Discovering the genetic cause for extreme thinness is a major step for physicians, as it means that they can now rely on a simple diagnostic tool. "It will help prevent family tragedies', according to Froguel. "Sometimes social services suspect domestic abuse and tear the children away from their parents."

With this study, researchers may also be on the path to finding genes that are crucial to the feeling of satiety, and responsible for putting on weight.

Read the original story in French

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Netflix And Chills: The German Formula Of “Dear Child” That's Driving Its Success

The German thriller has made it to the “top 10” list of the streaming platform in more than 90 countries by breaking away from conventional German tropes.

Screengrab from Netflix's Dear Child, showing two children, a boy and a girl, hugging a blonde woman.

An investigator reopens a 13-year-old missing persons case when a woman and a child escape from their abductor's captivity.

Dear Child/Netflix
Marie-Luise Goldmann


BERLIN — If you were looking for proof that Germany is actually capable of producing high-quality series and movies, just take a look at Netflix. Last year, the streaming giant distributed the epic anti-war film All Quiet on the Western Front, which won four Academy Awards, while series like Dark and Kleo have received considerable attention abroad.

And now the latest example of the success of German content is Netflix’s new crime series Dear Child, (Liebes Kind), which started streaming on Sep. 7. Within 10 days, the six-part series had garnered some 25 million views.

The series has now reached first place among non-English-language series on Netflix. In more than 90 countries, the psychological thriller has made it to the Netflix top 10 list — even beating the hit manga series One Piece last week.

How did it manage such a feat? What did Dear Child do that other productions didn't?

Keep reading...Show less

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