Protein research key for improved metabolism

July 7, 2014 by Chris Thomas
“Obesity and insulin resistance are hallmarks of the metabolic syndrome and we have already shown that TNFSF14 may promote insulin sensitivity in skeletal muscle cells,” A/Prof Vance says. Credit: iStock

Unlocking the mysteries of a certain type of protein could help reduce diet-induced obesity and type 2 diabetes by limiting weight gain, insulin resistance and glucose intolerance.

In WA, nearly 38 per cent of adults are overweight and one in four are obese—both are major risk factors for .

Researchers at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research are focussing on the circulating protein TNFSF14 which, in earlier studies, has shown to be important in metabolism.

TNFSF14 levels were shown to be increased in morbidly obese humans and this observation raised the question as to whether upregulated levels of TNSF14 during obesity were working in a pro or anti-obesogenic manner.

Lead researcher UWA Associate Professor Vance Matthews says TNFSF14 has shown potential because it is a promiscuous ligand (ion that bonds with a central atom).

"It may bind two receptors, which include the lymphotoxin-beta receptor and herpes virus entry mediator, and this increases the number of metabolic cell types that may bind TNFSF14," he says.

"Major metabolic cell types including adipocytes, and hepatocytes express receptors for TNFSF14 and are therefore targets for the protein.

"Obesity and are hallmarks of the metabolic syndrome and we have already shown that TNFSF14 may promote insulin sensitivity in skeletal ."

Further to this, within cells, TNFSF14 could actually reduce insulin resistance.

In small animal studies, the presence of TNFSF14 has also been shown to decrease high-fat, diet-induced obesity and resistance.

"Our experiments are the first to utilise a TNFSF14 knockout mouse in high-fat, diet-induced obesity studies," A/Prof Matthews says, referring to a genetically engineered mouse where an existing gene has been replaced or disrupted with an artificial piece of DNA.

"We are fortunate to be collaborating with Dr Bernadette Saunders at Sydney's Centenary Institute.

"With funding assistance from Diabetes Research WA, our group is now determining whether TNFSF14 expression in bone marrow-derived cells reduces diet-induced and type 2 diabetes.

"We are conducting more extensive proteomic analyses to see whether proteins involved in lipid metabolism are also influenced by TNFSF14 signalling."

Other proteins such as leptin and ciliary neurotrophic factor originally also showed great promise, however they failed in clinical trials.

"This was due to upregulation of negative regulators or neutralising antibodies," A/Prof Matthews says.

"The discovery of novel anti-obesogenic proteins are of great need."

But he says his team is excited about the potential of TNFSF14.

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

Related Stories

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 ...

Discovery may lead to new drugs to curb obesity, type 2 diabetes

October 11, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—An international study led by a researcher from The University of Western Australia for the Western Australian Institute for Medical Research (WAIMR) has produced exciting results that may lead to new drugs ...

Breast cancer gene protects against obesity, diabetes

March 12, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—The gene known to be associated with breast cancer susceptibility, BRCA 1, plays a critical role in the normal metabolic function of skeletal muscle, according to a new study led by University of Maryland ...

Explaining 'healthy' obesity

July 3, 2014
Up to one-quarter of individuals currently labeled as obese are actually metabolically healthy and do not have a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Though obesity is a major risk factor for diabetes, the two conditions ...

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 ...

Research helps clarify how obesity leads to type 2 diabetes, cancer

June 5, 2014
New findings about the biological links between obesity, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes may also shed light on the connection between obesity and cancer, says a scientist at The University of Texas at Dallas.

Recommended for you

Want to win at sports? Take a cue from these mighty mice

July 20, 2017
As student athletes hit training fields this summer to gain the competitive edge, a new study shows how the experiences of a tiny mouse can put them on the path to winning.

Engineered liver tissue expands after transplant

July 19, 2017
Many diseases, including cirrhosis and hepatitis, can lead to liver failure. More than 17,000 Americans suffering from these diseases are now waiting for liver transplants, but significantly fewer livers are available.

Lunatic Fringe gene plays key role in the renewable brain

July 19, 2017
The discovery that the brain can generate new cells - about 700 new neurons each day - has triggered investigations to uncover how this process is regulated. Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Jan and Dan Duncan ...

'Smart' robot technology could give stroke rehab a boost

July 19, 2017
Scientists say they have developed a "smart" robotic harness that might make it easier for people to learn to walk again after a stroke or spinal cord injury.

New animal models for hepatitis C could pave the way for a vaccine

July 19, 2017
They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In the case of hepatitis C—a disease that affects nearly 71 million people worldwide, causing cirrhosis and liver cancer if left untreated—it might be worth ...

Omega-3 fatty acids fight inflammation via cannabinoids

July 18, 2017
Chemical compounds called cannabinoids are found in marijuana and also are produced naturally in the body from omega-3 fatty acids. A well-known cannabinoid in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol, is responsible for some of its ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jul 07, 2014
There seems to be a weight problem. I hope that solutions are brought to the public without asking that people stop eating categories of food that human tend to eat in general.

When it comes to weight loss the fact it can be linked to obesity or diabetes, make this subject a very important one. Knowing how to lose weight without going through extremely restrictive diets or unbelievable hard workouts may be beneficial.

I shared some of my thoughts related to this topic on this page:

You may also find there a link to a video that taught me about a phenomenon related to weight loss and genders that I was unaware of.

What is the point of following an enslaving diet where you have to completely stop enjoying delicious, healthy and lawful food?

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.