Millions of Americans, mostly young women, suffer from anorexia. Tulsa researchers are now playing a key role in finding a cure. The Laureate Clinic is one of ten sites in North America and Europe that is wrapping up a ten-year study on the disorder. News on 6 reporter Steve Berg talked with the Tulsa man who's leading the study here in Oklahoma.
Dr. Craig Johnson announced this week that after their research, they suspect more than ever that anorexia has a genetic cause. Like so many diseases, this is another one he says we probably inherit. Dr. Johnson says the findings were not a huge surprise.
"Most of us that have been working in the field for a long time have noticed over the years that eating disorders did trend to run in families," he said.
One of the keys to their early research was as simple as comparing identical twins, who have the exact same genes, with fraternal twins, who only share half of the same genes.
"Once an identical twin develops anorexia nervosa, about 70 percent of the time, the other twin will develop it in relatively short order,â€ said Dr. Johnson. â€œIf there are fraternal twins, non-identical twins, the other twin will only develop it about 30 percent of the time."
More recently, he says new medical technology has revealed differences in two particular chromosomes in anorexics. Right now, treatment of anorexia is mostly psychological, but the closer they get to the actual physical cause, sufferers might someday be able to simply take a pill.
"We will actually perhaps be able to minimally find some medications that will be more specific to the treatment of eating disorders," Johnson said.
Johnson says their research shows that family members of an anorexic person are 12 times more likely to also have anorexia. He says they now have new funding to expand on their previous studies.
"This next time we're going to try to find 100 family members of families that have multiple people affected by it rather than just two," he said.
The Laureate Clinic is looking for people to take part in this study. They're interested in families with at least two members who have been diagnosed, or have symptoms of anorexia. The study will involve self-assessment questionnaires, clinical interviews and researchers will be drawing blood. Participants will not need to travel to Tulsa, officials say everything can be done in your hometown. Participants will also be paid when the study is complete.
If youâ€™d like to participate in the study you can contact the Study Coordinator, Nancy Morales, at 1-800-322-5173 ext. 13722, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org