According to new preliminary research published Thursday, May 21 in the journal Cell, scientists may have discovered a gene that helps super-skinny individuals stay so slim, potentially opening up a new frontier in treatments to tackle obesity, CNN reports.
An international team of scientists said they have identified a genetic variant unique to thin individuals in what's known as the ALK gene. The ALK gene makes a protein called anaplastic lymphoma kinase, which is involved in cell growth.
They pinpointed the variant after looking at DNA samples and clinical data of more than 47,000 healthy people in Estonia between the ages of 20 and 44.
"The Estonia biobank is very unique in its detail," said senior author Josef Penninger, a professor in the department of medical genetics and the director of the Life Sciences Institute at the University of British Columbia.
"We looked at the genetic maps of people with a BMI [body mass index] below 18 and compared them with those of people of normal weight and found the [genetic variant] that correlated with being super skinny," Penninger said.