No cure as yet for gene defect behind Eman’s obesity

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The hope for a cure for Eman Ahmed Abdelaty, the world's heaviest woman, currently in a Mumbai hospital, has receded after it was found that the reason for her obesity was because of a rare gene defect.

Doctors say they believe they have found the reason behind the cause of Eman Ahmed Abdelaty’s obesity, which at its peak saw the Egyptian weigh 500kg. A special gene study focused on samples from the patient found that the gene behind her weight was in the leptin receptor gene.

According to doctors, Eman is the only person in the world with this obesity-causing gene defect.

A second gene defect was also detected that is believed to be the significant factor behind her obesity.

The gene study carried out in the US, which identified the rare genetic disorder, also means that the condition cannot be treated, as medicines are yet to be tested.

The 36-year-old woman's weight has since dropped to 340kgs as she undergoes treatment carried out by a team of specialists at Mumbai’s Saifee Hospital.

Abdelaty’s treatment included in March successful laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy surgery.

Dr Muffazal Lakdawala, said: “There is a hormone called leptin which comes from fat tissue and tells the brain when fat stores are being depleted. In this unfortunate person, the docking station in the brain that leptin plugs into seems to be very defective so leptin doesn't send its signal.

“Because of this, from early life., this patient’s brain has perceived that she is constantly starving. That has led her to constantly seek food, store it avidly in her body as fat and conserve energy. Unfortunately, there is currently no specific treatment for this condition.”

He said the operation Eman had might have some beneficial effects. But he said it would not deal with the underlying problem.

He added: “New drugs are being developed which may be able, at least partially, to ‘bypass’ the signaling block in the brain… but it is very early days for these drugs. So if she has access to these drugs and they are effective then we have a solution for her obesity. If not, then she may need a more radical surgery which causes malabsorption a little later in life.”

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