The Genetic Basis of Obesity and Related Metabolic Diseases in Humans and Companion Animals
Obesity is one of the most prevalent health conditions in humans and companion animals globally. It is associated with premature mortality, metabolic dysfunction, and multiple health conditions across species. Obesity is, therefore, of importance in the fields of medicine and veterinary medicine. The regulation of adiposity is a homeostatic process vulnerable to disruption by a multitude of genetic and environmental factors. It is well established that the heritability of obesity is high in humans and laboratory animals, with ample evidence that the same is true in companion animals. In this review, we provide an overview of how genes link to obesity in humans, drawing on a wealth of information from laboratory animal models, and summarise the mechanisms by which obesity causes related disease. Throughout, we focus on how large-scale human studies and niche investigations of rare mutations in severely affected patients have improved our understanding of obesity biology and can inform our ability to interpret results of animal studies. For dogs, cats, and horses, we compare the similarities in obesity pathophysiology to humans and review the genetic studies that have been previously reported in those species. Finally, we discuss how veterinary genetics may learn from humans about studying precise, nuanced phenotypes and implementing large-scale studies, but also how veterinary studies may be able to look past clinical findings to mechanistic ones and demonstrate translational benefits to human research.