The prevalence of obesity is increasing dramatically, and is occuring at an increasing rate among children. Obesity is a major risk factor for numerous diseases including diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, arthritis, and some forms of cancer. Inherited factors strongly affect an individual’s risk for becoming obese, especially in an environment with little exercise and diets high in fat and sugar. However, many of these genetic factors are not yet known.
Dr. Susanne Clee’s research seeks to identify one of these genetic factors. She is conducting genetic studies on mouse strains that differ in their risk of developing obesity when fed a high fat diet. Clee will progressively zero in on new candidate genes by comparing the suspected region’s DNA sequence between obese and non-obese mice, and identifying specific changes in genes that could lead to the development of obesity. At the same time, Clee will use these mouse strains to study the biology of how obesity develops. By comparing mice that become obese when fed a high fat diet compared to mice that resist obesity, she will be able to describe how the body's processes are altered as individuals become obese.
By identifying new genetic factors that cause mouse strains to become more obese, Clee hopes to gain a more specific understanding of how obesity develops. This knowledge will lead to new ways to treat or prevent this disease and to identify those individuals more at-risk of developing obesity.