Researchers discover gene that causes obesity in mice

Researchers have discovered that deleting a specific gene in mice prevents them from becoming obese even on a high fat diet, a finding they believe may be replicated in humans.

"When fed a diet that induces obesity these mice don't get fat," said Prof. James McManaman, Ph.D., lead author of the study and vice-chairman of research for at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. "It may be possible to duplicate this in humans using existing technology that targets this specific gene."

The two-year study, funded by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. , was published last month in the .

The research team created a strain of mice without the Plin2 gene which produces a protein that regulates fat storage and metabolism. They immediately found that the mice were resistant to obesity.

Usually, mice fed a high fat diet will eat voraciously, yet these showed an unusual restraint. Not only did they eat less, they were more active.

Their fat cells were also 20 percent smaller than typical mice and did not show the kind of inflammation usually associated with obesity, the study said. Obesity-associated , common in obese humans and rodents, was absent in the mice without the Plin2 gene.

"The mice were healthier," McManaman said. "They had lower triglyceride levels, they were more insulin-sensitive, they had no incidents of fatty liver disease and there was less inflammation in the ."

The absence of the gene may cause fat to be metabolized faster, he said.

"Now we want to know why this works physiologically," McManaman said. "We want to better understand how this affects ."

According to the study, understanding how Plin2 is involved in the control of will provide new insights into "the mechanisms by which nutrition overload is detected, and how individuals adapt to, or fail to adapt to, dietary challenges."

The consequences for people are highly significant since they also possess the Plin2 gene.

"It could mean that we have finally discovered a way to disrupt obesity in humans," he said. "That would be a major breakthrough."

Related Stories

Molasses extract decreases obesity caused by a high-fat diet

Jul 12, 2011

Experimental results to be presented at the upcoming annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior (SSIB), the foremost society for research into all aspects of eating and drinking behavior, suggests that ...

Recommended for you

Growing a blood vessel in a week

Oct 24, 2014

The technology for creating new tissues from stem cells has taken a giant leap forward. Three tablespoons of blood are all that is needed to grow a brand new blood vessel in just seven days. This is shown ...

Testing time for stem cells

Oct 24, 2014

DefiniGEN is one of the first commercial opportunities to arise from Cambridge's expertise in stem cell research. Here, we look at some of the fundamental research that enables it to supply liver and pancreatic ...

Team finds key signaling pathway in cause of preeclampsia

Oct 23, 2014

A team of researchers led by a Wayne State University School of Medicine associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology has published findings that provide novel insight into the cause of preeclampsia, the leading cause ...

Rapid test to diagnose severe sepsis

Oct 23, 2014

A new test, developed by University of British Columbia researchers, could help physicians predict within an hour if a patient will develop severe sepsis so they can begin treatment immediately.

User comments