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Biobank Study to Assess Obesity Types, Genetics

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26 May 2022. A study is now enrolling individuals to better understand different types of obesity, as well as genetics and other factors behind various obesity conditions. The research is conducted by Phenomix Sciences, a company in St. Paul, Minnesota, founded by researchers at the Mayo Clinic, where first participants are recruited.

Phenomix Sciences is a five year-old biotechnology enterprise seeking to discover precise analytics for obesity that the company says is a collection of different conditions, not a single disorder. Phenomix identifies four types of obesity: (1) consuming too many calories without feeling full, (2) feeling hungry shortly after eating, (3) eating in response to emotional triggers, and (4) slow metabolism where calories are burned inefficiently. The company says it bases these four types of obesity on data compiled from research by its founders, gastroenterologists Andres Acosta and Michael Camilleri, who study obesity at the Mayo Clinic.

Phenomix says addressing specific types of obesity can lead to better outcomes for individuals, by focusing on precise underlying causes of weight gain, and prescribing interventions with a better chance of success. The company says research by its founders indicate more precise treatments for obesity can achieve up to twice the amount of weight loss as generalized therapies.

Interactions between DNA and other factors

In a review article published in Dec. 2020, Acosta and colleagues identified an initial set of biomarkers that point to different phenotypes, or traits and characteristics of obesity. The findings identify a wide range of contributing factors to obesity and treatments for the condition, beginning with genetics, related epigenetics and transcribed proteins, and extending to diet and nutrition, response to medications, and microbiome activity. The authors recommend more in-depth analysis to associate these underlying factors to various obesity phenotypes.

The new study aims to enroll 2,000 individuals at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota undergoing treatments for obesity. Participants will give samples for a biobank and registry, collecting their DNA with other data on medical history, race, ethnicity, socio-economic factors, education, and other behavioral and environmental factors. The study team will analyze the findings to relate genomics with other data to better understand interactions between an individual’s DNA and other factors that contribute to excessive weight gain. The company says the biobank and registry will make it possible to devise tests for identifying treatments that address precise underlying causes for obesity and improve outcomes for patients.

“Our biobanking agreement with Mayo Clinic,” says Mark Bagnall, CEO of Phenomix Sciences in a company statement, “is an important opportunity to make vast strides in how we understand the complexities of obesity treatment. We believe the biobanking registry investment will better support obesity centers by providing concrete evidence and insights into how DNA and other factors need to be considered in treatment.”

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