No sooner was discovery of a new obesity-related gene announced last week than it became embroiled in rival ownership claims.

Researchers at the University of California Davis Medical Center, Duke University Medical Center and the French Centre National de la Recherche pinpointed a new gene, uncoupling protein 2 (ucp2), responsible for determining weight gain. The ucp2 protein, produced in mitochondria, burns excess calories in the diet by uncoupling respiration at the electron transport stage. Uncoupling results in heat generation rather than fat synthesis.