Washington DC, Aug 11 : Scientists have discovered an ‘obesity gene’ which could possibly play a role in the cause of obesity.
The gene, which encoded a protein called 14-3-3zeta, was found in every cell of the body. But when scientists silenced the gene in mice, it resulted in a 50 percent reduction in the amount of a specific kind of unhealthy ‘white fat’ the kind associated with obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
The fat reduction occurred despite the mice consuming the same amount of food. Mice that were bred to have higher levels of the 14-3-3zeta protein were noticeably bigger and rounder, having an average of 22 per cent more white fat when fed a high calorie diet.
Discovery of this direct link between a protein and fat production points the way to a possible drug therapy. Scientists theorise that by suppressing the gene or blocking the protein, they could prevent fat accumulation in people who are overweight, or are on their way to becoming so.
Gareth Lim of the University of British Columbia said that people gain fat through the multiplication of their fat cells, and through the expansion of individual fat cells.
Lim added that this protein affected both the number of cells and how big they are, by playing a role in the growth cycle of these cells.
Lim and James Johnson, a professor of cellular and physiological sciences, investigated the 14-3-3 family of proteins four years ago as it often showed up in the unhealthy fat tissue of obese people.
Johnson said that the study showed how fundamental research can address major health problems and open up new avenues for drug discovery.
He added that it was clear that this information would be useful in efforts to prevent obesity.
The study is published in the journal Nature Communications. (ANI)