Opioid receptors as a drug target for stopping obesity

July 31, 2012, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

Imagine eating all of the sugar and fat that you want without gaining a pound. Thanks to new research published in The FASEB Journal, the day may come when this is not too far from reality. That's because researchers from the United States and Europe have found that blocking one of three opioid receptors in your body could turn your penchant for sweets and fried treats into a weight loss strategy that actually works. By blocking the delta opioid receptor, or DOR, mice reduced their body weight despite being fed a diet high in fat and sugar. The scientists believe that the deletion of the DOR gene in mice stimulated the expression of other genes in brown adipose tissue that promoted thermogenesis.

"Our study provided further evidence that opioid receptors can control the metabolic response to diets high in fat and sugar, and raise the possibility that these gene products (or their respective pathways) can be targeted specifically to treat excess weight and obesity," said Traci A. Czyzyk, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Department of Physiology at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Scientists studied mice lacking the delta (DOR KO) and wild type (WT) who were fed an energy dense diet (HED), high in fat and sugar, for three months. They found that DOR KO mice had a lean phenotype specifically when they were fed the HED. While WT mice gained significant weight and fat mass on this diet, DOR KO mice remained lean even though they consumed more food. Researchers then sought to determine how DOR might regulate energy balance and found that DOR KO mice were able to maintain their energy expenditure levels, in part, due to an increase in non-shivering thermogenesis. This was evidenced by an increase in thermogenesis-promoting genes in , an increase in temperature near major brown adipose tissue depots, and the ability of DOR KO mice to maintain higher core in response to being in a cold environment.

"Don't reach for the ice cream and doughnuts just yet," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The . "We don't know how all this works in humans, and of course, a diet of junk food causes other health problems. This exciting research identifies genes that activate brown adipose tissue to increase our burning of calories from any source. It may lead to a safe diet pill in the future."

Explore further: Scientists identify protein that stimulates brown fat to burn calories

More information: Traci A. Czyzyk, Amparo Romero-Picó, John Pintar, Jaime H. McKinzie, Matthias H. Tschöp, Michael A. Statnick, and Ruben Nogueiras. Mice lacking δ-opioid receptors resist the development of diet-induced obesity. FASEB J. doi:10.1096/fj.12-208041

Related Stories

Scientists identify protein that stimulates brown fat to burn calories

May 10, 2012
Scientists have identified a protein which regulates the activation of brown fat in both the brain and the body's tissues. Their research, which was conducted in mice, was published today, Friday 11 May, in the journal Cell.

Antibody injection promising for diabetes and obesity

December 16, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Researchers at Genetech Inc. in South San Francisco, California, led by molecular biologist Junichiro Sonoda, have discovered that a single injection of antibodies into obese diabetic mice provided a marked ...

Orexin: A hormone that fights fat with fat

October 4, 2011
The fat we typically think of as body fat is called white fat. But there's another type—known as brown fat—that does more than just store fat. It burns fat. Scientists used to think that brown fat disappeared after ...

Recommended for you

Bariatric surgery prolongs lifespan in obese

January 16, 2018
Obese, middle-age men and women who had bariatric surgery have half the death rate of those who had traditional medical treatment over a 10-year period, reports a study that answers questions about the long-term risk of the ...

Evening hours may pose higher risk for overeating, especially when under stress, study finds

January 16, 2018
Experiments with a small group of overweight men and women have added to evidence that "hunger hormone" levels rise and "satiety (or fullness) hormone" levels decrease in the evening. The findings also suggest that stress ...

Sugar-sweetened drinks linked to overweight and obesity in children, adults: Analysis of new studies

December 23, 2017
A new review of the latest evidence on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs)- which includes 30 new studies published between 2013 and 2015 (and none of them industry sponsored) - concludes that SSB consumption is associated with ...

As income rises, women get slimmer—but not men

December 21, 2017
(HealthDay)—A comprehensive survey on the widening American waistline finds that as paychecks get bigger, women's average weight tends to drop.

Policy and early intervention can curb obesity rates

December 18, 2017
More information and emphasis on dietary lifestyle changes that prevent obesity, and its comorbidities, have not reduced the rise in obesity in U.S. adults and adolescents, according to a recent study in the New England Journal ...

Warning labels can help reduce soda consumption and obesity, new study suggests

December 15, 2017
Labels that warn people about the risks of drinking soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages can lower obesity and overweight prevalence, suggests a new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study.

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.