Scientists have found that optimizing a single gene in mice allows them to eat as much as they want without gaining weight. Christmas time sounds too good to be true, but researchers say their discovery could be used as a basis for human treatment in the near future.
Reporting in the journal EMBO reportsScientists from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and the Flinders Unversity in Australia found that the single gene known as RCAN1 acts as a feedback inhibitor for all types of metabolic processes and the generation of body heat. After shutting down this gene from the mice, they were curious to find that they were resistant to diet-induced weight gain. Their metabolism was effectively overcharged, so they could burn more calories.
The experiment has so far only been tested with mice. Nevertheless, the researchers claim that their results as a new drug therapy for people with obesity or metabolic diseases have potential.
"We know that many people have difficulty losing or even controlling weight for a variety of reasons. The results of this study could mean developing a pill that targets the function of RCAN1 and can lead to weight loss, "said lead author, Professor Damien Keating of Flinders University Statement. "These results show that we can potentially make a real difference in the fight against obesity."
"We have already developed a number of drugs that target the protein that makes up this gene, and we are currently testing whether they inhibit RCAN1 and whether they could potentially be new drugs for obesity," he added.
The human body contains two types of fat: white fat and brown fat. White fat used to store energy is the stuff you imagine when you hear the word fat. Brown fat cells full of mitochondria burn energy and generate heat. We tend to lose our small amounts of brown fat with age, and obese individuals and people with diabetes have even fewer. According to the researchers, deactivating the RCAN1 can help turn the white fat into brown fat.
"Given our findings, the drugs we develop to target RCAN1 would burn more calories while people rest," Professor Keating said. "It means that the body would save less fat without a person having to reduce their food consumption or exercise more."
Of course, even if researchers force these findings into human treatment, you would need a balanced diet for your broader health. However, for people with chronic obesity or metabolic disorders this can be very helpful.