Blocking a Protein prevented Weight Gain in a Mice Study

credit: National Cancer Institute - PD

(Best Syndication News) - Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that blocking an enzyme called fatty acid synthase (FAS) in mice aided them against gaining weight even when eating a high-fat diet. The mice that were not having the FAS blocked were given the same high-fat diet and became obese. The research may help develop new treatments for obesity and type 2 diabetes in humans. The study results were published in the online edition of the journal Cell Metabolism.

The blocked FAS enzyme made the mice become more sensitive to insulin. The researchers engineered the mice so that they would not make FAS in their fat cells.

The mice that did not have FAS were more resistant to becoming obese compared to the control group, explained the first author, Irfan J. Lodhi, PhD. He continued to explain that the mice ate just as much high-fat food as the obese mice, but they were able to metabolize the fat through body heat.

Lodhi investigated the fat cells of the FAS mice. The mice had brown fat and white fat cells. The brown fat helps to burn calories, while the white fat stores the calories for the long term and can end up storing excess body fat.

The mice that had the genetic modification to block FAS production had the white fat, but the fat tissue looked like brown fat.

Lodhi suggests that the fatty acid synthase enzyme may direct the body's production of white fat or brown fat. He said that when the FAS was taken away, the white fat changed into "brite" cells that would burn off more energy.

There is a debate whether humans have brown fat, but recently researchers discovered that it was present in people.

Senior investigator Clay F. Semenkovich, MD said that treating type-2 diabetes and obesity in the future might come from triggering the body's brown fat cells. He explained that this new research of blocking FAS is exciting. He also explained that the potential side effects might be minimized if they target PPARs (peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors) which are also involved in the body's fat production.

PPARs are used in lipid metabolism to burn fat and to store fat. The PPAR-alpha is believed to burn fat. The PPAR-gamma is involved in making the fat and it aids in storing it for later.

During their research, Lodhi and Semenkovich, found that the mice lacking FAS had increased activity of PPAR-alpha, and at the same time, the PPAR-gamma was less active.

The researchers then blocked the PexRAP in the fat cells of mice and found that there was decreased fat storage as well. The mice with blocked PexRAP also showed improvement in glucose metabolism.

Semenkovich explained that more research would be needed to determine what other roles PexRAP plays in the the rest of the body. The goal would be to develop clinical trials, which they hope will be fairly soon.

By: Marsha Quinn
Health Reporter

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