A protein could be a key weapon in the battle of the bulge

April 1, 2014

More than one-third of people in the US are obese. Obesity and its related health problems—including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, insulin resistance, and belly fat—affect so many, yet effective treatments are very few. In a new study, Simon Musyoka Mwangi and colleagues tested whether higher levels of a certain protein help fight the weight gain and health problems caused by eating the wrong foods.

Glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor—or GDNF for short—is a protein integral to keeping the body's systems in balance (homeostasis) and helping develop and maintain the nerve cells responsible for a host of bodily functions such as digestion and muscle control. Previous research has shown that elevated levels of GDNF can lead to weight loss in rodents and primates with age-related obesity and prevent in younger animals. In this study, researchers looked specifically at how the increased presence of GDNF might affect obesity caused by a high fat diet.

Researchers compared mice bred to have of GDNF protein with control mice. The mice were fed either a regular rodent diet (containing ~6% fat) or a high-fat diet (~34% fat).They found that the GDNF-mice fed a high-fat diet resisted diet-induced weight gain, visceral (around the organs) fat development, fatty liver, high lipid (fat) levels in the blood, and . The GDNF mice also experienced improved insulin sensitivity and increased calorie burn compared to control mice on a high-fat diet.

More research is needed into how GDNF works in the body, but the data presented by Mwangi et al. suggest that it may cause increased calorie burn in both brown and white fat cells and in muscle tissue. Their research also suggests that GDNF and its receptors may be unique and effective targets for obesity prevention and treatment therapies.

The article "Glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor protects against -induced obesity" is published in the March 2014 issue of the American Journal of Physiology—Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology.

Explore further: Improving obesity-induced insulin sensitivity

More information: ajpgi.physiology.org/content/306/6/G515

Related Stories

Improving obesity-induced insulin sensitivity

June 1, 2012

In recent years, a growing body of evidence has linked inflammation to the development of insulin resistance. In insulin resistance, the hormone insulin is less effective in promoting glucose uptake from the bloodstream into ...

Calorie-restricted weight loss restores ghrelin sensitivity

January 21, 2013

(HealthDay)—In a mouse model, calorie-restricted weight loss reverses the high-fat diet-induced ghrelin resistance that may contribute to rebound weight gain, according to research published online Jan. 10 in Endocrinology.

Reducing liver protein SIRT1 levels

January 22, 2014

A new study led by Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) demonstrates that the abnormal metabolism linked to obesity could be regulated in part by the interaction of two metabolic regulators, called the NAD-dependent ...

Lingonberries halt effects of high-fat diet

January 23, 2014

Lingonberries almost completely prevented weight gain in mice fed a high-fat diet, a study at Lund University in Sweden has found - whereas the 'super berry' açai led to increased weight gain. The Scandinavian berries also ...

Recommended for you

Fertilization discovery: Do sperm wield tiny harpoons?

August 26, 2015

Could the sperm harpoon the egg to facilitate fertilization? That's the intriguing possibility raised by the University of Virginia School of Medicine's discovery that a protein within the head of the sperm forms spiky filaments, ...

Research identifies protein that regulates body clock

August 26, 2015

New research into circadian rhythms by researchers at the University of Toronto Mississauga shows that the GRK2 protein plays a major role in regulating the body's internal clock and points the way to remedies for jet lag ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.