Why do some people get fat, while others?who may eating the same diet and exercising just as much?don't? Researchers have found that a single gene might control whether or not individuals tend to pile on fat, a discovery that may point to new ways to fight obesity and diabetes.
Biologist Jonathan Graff says, "From worms to mammals, this gene controls fat formation. It could explain why so many people struggle to lose weight and suggests an entirely new direction for developing medical treatments that address the current epidemic of diabetes and obesity. People who want to fit in their jeans might someday be able to overcome their genes."
The gene, called adipose, was discovered in fat fruit flies more than 50 years ago by a graduate student at Yale University, but its mechanism was unknown and few people knew about it.
In the new study, researchers examined how adipose works by manipulating adipose in various animals, turning the gene on and off at different stages in the animals? lives and in various parts of their bodies. It was discovered that the gene, which is also present in humans, is likely to be a high-level master switch that tells the body whether to accumulate or burn fat.
This gene helps animals to survive times of famine, but for people in developed countries, it has backfired. It's all feast and no famine, so the fat builds and builds. "Even a pound a year adds up over a lifetime," Graff says. "?Eventually, of course, the idea is to develop drugs to target this system, but that's in the years to come."
And speaking of drugs, researchers have determined that the brain circuits involved in hunger are influenced by a hormone called leptin. Giving obese patients leptin supplements produced moderate weight loss in some cases, by inhibiting hunger and promoting feelings of being full. This work points to a possible new diet pill.
Art credit: freeimages.co.uk
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