Gene that lets you eat as much as you want holds promise against obesity

December 4, 2018, Flinders University
When a single gene known as RCAN1 was removed in mice and they were fed a high fat diet, they failed to gain weight, even after gorging on high fat foods for prolonged periods.The international team behind the study are hopeful a similar approach that inhibits this gene will also be effective with humans. Credit: Flinders University

It sounds too good to be true, but a novel approach that might allow you to eat as much food as you want without gaining weight could be a reality in the near future.

When a known as RCAN1 was removed in mice and they were fed a , they failed to gain weight, even after gorging on high fat foods for prolonged periods.

The international team behind the study are hopeful a similar approach that inhibits this gene will also be effective with humans to combat obesity and serious diseases like diabetes.

Led by Professor Damien Keating at Flinders University, the study used a huge genetic screen in rodents to identify novel genetic candidates that may cause obesity, potentially paving the way for new drug therapies.

"We know a lot of people struggle to lose weight or even control their for a number of different reasons. The findings in this study could mean developing a pill which would target the function of RCAN1 and may result in ," Professor Keating says.

Obesity is a major global health epidemic, resulting in increased risk of serious diseases like type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, but avenues for effective therapeutic treatments are lacking.

It sounds too good to be true, but a novel approach that might allow you to eat as much fatty foods as you want without gaining weight could be a reality in the near future. When a single gene known as RCAN1 was removed in mice and they were fed a high fat diet, they failed to gain weight, even after gorging on high fat foods for prolonged periods.The international team behind the study are hopeful a similar approach that inhibits this gene will also be effective with humans to combat obesity and serious diseases like diabetes.Led by Professor Damien Keating at Flinders University, the study used a huge genetic screen in rodents to identify novel genetic candidates that may cause obesity, potentially paving the way for new drug therapies. Credit: Professor Damien Keating, Flinders University

There are two types of fat in the - brown fat burns energy, while white fat stores energy.

Professor Keating says blocking RCAN1 helps to transform unhealthy white fat into healthy brown fat, presenting a potential treatment method in the fight against obesity.

"We have already developed a series of drugs that target the protein that this gene makes, and we are now in the process of testing them to see if they inhibit RCAN1 and whether they might represent potential new anti-obesity drugs,"

"In light of our results, the drugs we are developing to target RCAN1 would burn more calories while people are resting. It means the body would store less fat without the need for a person to reduce food consumption or exercise more."

Two thirds of Australian adults and a quarter of children are either overweight or obese, and the statistics are just as concerning in Britain and the US.

It sounds too good to be true, but a novel approach that might allow you to eat as much fatty foods as you want without gaining weight could be a reality in the near future. Credit: Flinders University
"We looked at a variety of different diets with various timespans from eight weeks up to six months, and in every case we saw health improvements in the absence of the RCAN1 gene."

The researchers say these findings open up a potentially simple treatment but further studies are required to determine if they translate the same results to humans.

"Our research is focused on understanding how cells send signals to each other and how this impacts health and the spread of disease".

"We really want to pursue this, it's exciting and we have research funding from the Australian government through the National Health and Medical Research Council to continue to explore viable options. These results show we can potentially make a real difference in the fight again ."

Explore further: Study in mice suggests drug to turn fat 'brown' could help fight obesity

More information: David Rotter et al, Regulator of Calcineurin 1 helps coordinate whole‐body metabolism and thermogenesis, EMBO reports (2018). DOI: 10.15252/embr.201744706

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3 comments

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coahoma3
not rated yet Dec 04, 2018
Ahh, the holy grail of weight loss, the miracle pill. I wouldn't expect too much success.
neiorah
not rated yet Dec 04, 2018
It seems that there are other factors in why the rcan1 gene keeps people from being able to lose weight. It may be that its basic function has been altered and now it stays active longer than it should. We should use caution because if in the absence of this gene a person is not able to store any fat at all it would be bad for their health. Miracle pill maybe not.
luke_w_bradley
not rated yet Dec 04, 2018
The evolutionary value of storing fat during our 2 million year human history of wandering around starving seems very clear. Now that same trait is killing us. Beyond the role I've heard fats play in storing toxins, it seems like a good idea to turn it off, especially with research that enables "generational counters" (18:48) where it can switch itself back on in the future:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=TLbv8AA9bl4

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