Mouse model yields clues to eating disorders

University of Iowa researchers have discovered that mice lacking a gene linked to eating disorders in humans will show behavioral abnormalities resembling those in people with anorexia nervosa—including less interest in high-fat food when they are hungry, impaired social interaction, and compulsive grooming among female mice.

The missing gene is the transcription factor estrogen-related receptor alpha (ESRRA). The UI team had previously found that a mutation that reduces ESRRA activity is associated with an increased risk for eating disorders in human patients. This new study, published online April 9 in Cell Reports, may point to particular neural circuits that could be targets to treat abnormal behaviors associated with eating disorders.