UT-Houston's Northrup and colleagues uncover genetic link to spina bifida

December 18, 2007

HOUSTON - (Dec. 18, 2007)--Researchers at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston have discovered an association between genes regulating glucose metabolism and spina bifida. The decade-long study looked at more than 1,500 DNA samples from parents and their children with that birth defect.

UT Medical School researchers tested variants in a dozen genes that take part in glucose metabolism to look for a link between genetic variation in affected children and spina bifida. Each affected child's parents were also studied, as well as DNA from unaffected control samples. The samples were gathered from study participants in Houston, Los Angeles and Toronto.

Published in the Jan. 2008 issue of the journal Reproductive Sciences, the study titled "Genes in Glucose Metabolism and Association with Spina Bifida," found an association between variants in three glucose metabolism genes and spina bifida. Glucose metabolism is the way the body uses its major fuel, which is sugar.

"We are trying to find out what causes this neural tube defect. It has been recognized through epidemiological studies for a number of years that there was a connection between high glucose levels, either due to maternal diabetes or obesity and having a child with spina bifida," said co-author Hope Northrup, M.D., professor and director of medical genetics in the Department of Pediatrics at the UT Medical School. "Our goal is to identify variations in specific genes of glucose metabolism that are important in the process, thus enabling us to more specifically determine the underlying problem."

Spina bifida is the most common permanently disabling birth defect in the United States, according to the Spina Bifida Association. It happens when the spine of the baby fails to close during the first months of pregnancy. It occurs in seven out of 10,000 births in the United States. According to the Spina Bifida Association of Texas, a Hispanic woman is twice as likely to have a child with this crippling birth defect. In Texas, nearly two out of every 1,000 babies born have spina bifida.

Northrup said this study supports why women need to maintain a healthy weight throughout their childbearing years, and beyond.

"This is important from a practical standpoint because neural tube defects are more common in pregnancies complicated by maternal diabetes and maternal obesity, and our study suggests a mechanism for this association," said Manju Monga, M.D., professor and director of maternal and fetal medicine in the medical school's Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences. "In the United States, Mexican-American women have the highest rates of neural tube defects and they are also at increased risk for obesity and adult-onset diabetes, so this study may be especially relevant to pregnant women in Texas."

Another way women can reduce their risk of having a baby with spina bifida: take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily. The number of cases could be reduced by as much as 70 percent.
-end-
The lead author of the study is Christina Davidson, M.D., who was a fellow in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at the UT Medical School. She currently is at Baylor College of Medicine.

Co-authors at the UT Medical School, along with Northrup, include: Terri M. King, Ph.D.; Kit Sing Au, Ph.D.; Irene Townsend, R.N. Others are: Jack M. Fletcher, Ph.D., University of Houston; and Gayle H. Tyerman, M.D., Shriners Hospital for Children, Los Angeles.

The study was funded with grants from the National Institutes of Health and Shriners Hospital for Children.See this story online at: http://publicaffairs.uth.tmc.edu/media/newsreleases/nr2007/spinabifida.htm

University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

Related Obesity Articles from Brightsurf:

11 years of data add to the evidence for using testosterone therapy to treat obesity, including as an alternative to obesity surgery
New research covering 11 years of data presented at this year's European and International Congress on Obesity (ECOICO 2020) show that, in obese men suffering from hypogonadism (low testosterone), treatment with testosterone injections lowers their weight and improves a wide range of other metabolic parameters.

Overlap between immunology of COVID-19 and obesity could explain the increased risk of death in people living with obesity, and also older patients
Data presented in a special COVID-19 session at the European and International Congress on Obesity (ECOICO 2020) suggests that there are overlaps between the immunological disturbances found in both COVID-19 disease and patients with obesity, which could explain the increased disease severity and mortality risk faced by obese patients, and also elderly patients, who are infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 disease.

New obesity guideline: Address root causes as foundation of obesity management
besity management should focus on outcomes that patients consider to be important, not weight loss alone, and include a holistic approach that addresses the root causes of obesity, according to a new clinical practice guideline published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) http://www.cmaj.ca/lookup/doi/10.1503/cmaj.191707.

Changing the debate around obesity
The UK's National Health Service (NHS) needs to do more to address the ingrained stigma and discrimination faced by people with obesity, says a leading health psychologist.

Study links longer exposure to obesity and earlier development of obesity to increased risk of type 2 diabetes
Cumulative exposure to obesity could be at least as important as actually being obese in terms of risk of developing type 2 diabetes (T2D), concludes new research published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes [EASD]).

How much do obesity and addictions overlap?
A large analysis of personality studies has found that people with obesity behave somewhat like people with addictions to alcohol or drugs.

Should obesity be recognized as a disease?
With obesity now affecting almost a third (29%) of the population in England, and expected to rise to 35% by 2030, should we now recognize it as a disease?

Is obesity associated with risk of pediatric MS?
A single-center study of 453 children in Germany with multiple sclerosis (MS) investigated the association of obesity with pediatric MS risk and with the response of first-line therapy in children with MS.

Women with obesity prior to conception are more likely to have children with obesity
A systematic review and meta-analysis identified significantly increased odds of child obesity when mothers have obesity before conception, according to a study published June 11, 2019 in the open-access journal PLOS Medicine by Nicola Heslehurst of Newcastle University in the UK, and colleagues.

Obesity medicine association announces major updates to its adult obesity algorithm
The Obesity Medicine Association (OMA) announced the immediate availability of the 2019 OMA Adult Obesity Algorithm, with new information for clinicians including the relationship between Obesity and Cardiovascular Disease, Diabetes Mellitus, Dyslipidemia, and Cancer; information on investigational Anti-Obesity Pharmacotherapy; treatments for Lipodystrophy; and Pharmacokinetics and Obesity.

Read More: Obesity News and Obesity Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.