Scientists from Oxford University have found a link with a gene associated with obesity that increases body weight, potentially helping develop new drugs for anti-obesity.

People with two types of the gene, discovered in 2007, are more likely to gain weight than normal people. If there is a single type of gene, the probability of gaining weight was lesser.

Oxford scientists bred mice with the gene and found that they ate more and put on weight. The study, funded by the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust, was published in the journal Nature Genetics. The study found female mice with two copies of FTO gained 22 percent weight than normal female mice after 20 weeks. The male mice gained 10 per cent weight.

"This work makes us confident that FTO is an important gene that contributes to obesity," Prof Frances Ashcroft, one of the leaders of the research, said. "We can now think about developing drugs that turn down the activity of the FTO gene as potential anti-obesity pills. That's a long way off and there's no certainty of success, but it's an enticing prospect."

"This gene is novel to obesity research and it is going to be exciting to find out how it works," Prof Roger Cox, of the Medical Research Council said.