Newswise — Obesity is among the most common complex diseases in the United States and has been a stubborn public health challenge for decades. Its causes are wide ranging, but genetic heritability is increasingly understood to be an influential factor in determining a person’s risk for the disease.

Coriell researchers have found a new genetic indicator of obesity risk and bolstered the understood importance of one gene’s role in obesity risk. Their findings were published this month in Military Medicine.

“The better we understand the way one’s genetics affects their risk for obesity, the better informed they and their doctors will be when making health decisions,” said Dara Kusic, PhD, a research scientist at the Coriell Institute for Medical Research and the first author on the study. “If we can further determine genetic predictors of this disease, clinicians would be able to intervene earlier, inform a patient of the risks, and hopefully avoid the disease altogether.”

Coriell researchers analyzed 5,251 samples from the Coriell Personalized Medicine Collaborative (CPMC). The CPMC is a decade-long personalized medicine study in which thousands of participants submitted their DNA, and extensive family, medical and lifestyle histories for analysis. The group analyzed for this study included more than 2,000 members of the United States Air Force and their family members.

In the genome-wide association study (GWAS), the research team at Coriell identified the locus rs11670527, located downstream to the ZNF264 gene on chromosome 19, as having a significant association with elevated body mass index (or BMI).

The study notes that this gene, ZNF264, is also near another genetic variant, rs2361128, which was identified in the Framingham Heart Study as being associated with BMI, adding to evidence that ZNF264 has a role in influencing BMI. ZNF264 is known to encode a zinc-finger protein found in the nucleus. Unlike in the Framingham study, however, the rs2361128 SNP did not replicate with genome-wide significance in this study.

This work was supported by the United States Air Force Cooperative Agreement FA8650-14-2-6533.

Coriell’s Laura Scheinfeldt, PhD, also served as an author on this study. Stefan Zajic, PhD, formerly a principal research scientist at Coriell, served as the paper’s senior author.

About the Coriell Institute for Medical Research

Founded in 1953, the Coriell Institute for Medical Research is a nonprofit research institute dedicated to improving human health through biomedical research. Coriell scientists lead research in personalized medicine, cancer biology, epigenetics, and the genomics of opioid use disorder. Coriell also hosts one of the world's leading biobanks—comprised of collections for the National Institutes of Health, disease foundations and private clients—and distributes biological samples and offers research and biobanking services to scientists around the globe. To facilitate drug discovery and disease study, the Institute also develops and distributes collections of induced pluripotent stem cells. For more information, visit

Journal Link: Military Medicine