Scientists Discover Laziness Gene

Posted on July 30, 2008

Have you ever felt that, all things considered, you'd really rather be napping? If so, it's not your fault. It's all because of the newly-discovered laziness gene.

Have you ever wondered why you can't get off the couch and exercise -- despite paying for an expensive gym membership, despite your New Year's resolutions, even despite the doctor's scolding at your last checkup? Turns out that your inertia may be coded right into your genes.

Based on some intriguing preliminary studies in animals, J. Timothy Lightfoot, a kinesiologist, and his team at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, suggest that genetics may indeed predispose some of us to sloth. Using mice specially bred and selected according to their activity levels, Lightfoot identified 20 different genomic locations that work in tandem to influence their activity levels - specifically, how far the animals will run. Lightfoot's team is the first to identify these genetic areas and the first to figure out that they function in concert. The researchers say the areas they found on the mouse genome may have analogs in humans, and the UNC team is now gearing up to conduct a similar study in men and women. "We have put forward a fairly complete genomic map of the areas that are associated with regulation of physical activity," says Lightfoot, whose study is published in the current issue of the Journal of Heredity.

The study used mice who they bred to be active or not. The scientists put little exercise wheels in their cages and watched what they did. Some mice ran on the wheel the equivalent of a human running fifty miles a day. One mouse thought carefully about it, then piled some wood shavings around the wheel and turned the wheel into a bed.

So what does it all mean? We don't know, but for some reason we keep thinking about the little mouse who turned his exercise wheel into a giant, comfy bed. Perhaps in addition to the laziness gene, he also had the creativity and engineering genes.