The Early Growth Genetics (EGG) Consortium Produces Largest Genetic Study Associated with Child Obesity

Smart blonde woman holding a test tube with blood

The Early Growth Genetics (EGG) Consortium analyzed data across multiple ethnicities producing the largest genetic study to date associated with common childhood obesity. The team of international researcher discovered a robust new signal, fine-mapped previously reported genetic variants, and added evidence that genetic influences on obesity operate across the lifespan.

The Problem

Obesity is becoming a major crisis in much of the developed world, especially in America. Representing a public health crisis, the prevalence of the condition among children. More than 20% of children in the U.S.—obese adolescents tend to have a higher risk of mortality as adults. Social determinants of health represent a major factor behind obesity rates (e.g. income, education, household, pollution, sedentary habits, etc.). Researchers find increasing evidence that genetics play a major role.

The Study

The study leveraged the work of a 2012 collaborative study led by CHOP that identified genetic variants linked to common childhood obesity. Also from the ECG Consortium, was a meta-analysis focused on children of European ancestry. The new study included more diverse populations and included a meta-analysis of 30 genome-wide associations studies comprising 13,000 cases and 15,600 control, all from individuals of European, African, North, and South American and East Asian ancestry. A replication study then covered a subset of samples of 1,888 cases and 4,689 controls from European and North/South American cohorts.

The Findings

The scientists found a strong, novel variant associated with childhood obesity, closest to METTL15 gene, and confirmed 18 variants previously linked to childhood obesity or body mass index (BMI). By using fine-mapping analyses the team could narrow down possible causal variants at four different locations to less than 10 specific single-base changes (single-nucleotide polymorphism or SNPs).

Investigator Comments

Struan F.A. Grant, Ph.D., director of the Center for Spatial and Functional Genomics (CSFG) at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia reported “As we continue to deepen research into the genetics of obesity, this knowledge is bringing us closer to pinpointing specific causal genes and how they function is giving rise to obesity.” He continued “That detailed knowledge will help guide researchers toward developing more effective treatments.

Lead Research/Investigator

Struan F.A. Grant, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Spatial and Functional Genomics (CSFG) at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Vincent W. V. Jaddoe, MD, Ph.D., Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, Netherlands

Hakon Hakonarson, MD, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Applied Genomics (CAG), Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia