Genetic discovery offers new obesity treatment avenue

14 September 2016

New research from the US has highlighted a gene regulating obesity that could be targeted as a means of treating the condition in future.

Researchers from Baylor College of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health and Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute have studied the brains of mice, finding that the Rap1 gene has a role to play in regulating weight gain.

Rap1 is expressed in a variety of tissues, including the brain, where it is known to be involved in functions such as memory and learning. However, this study indicated that it also plays a part in maintaining the balance of energy usage.

When the mice were fed a high-fat diet in which 60 per cent of the calories came from fat, animals with a working Rap1 gene gained weight, but those that lacked Rap1 had markedly reduced body weight and less body fat.

It was indicated that consuming a high-fat diet results in changes in the brain that increase Rap1 activity, which in turn leads to a decreased sensitivity to leptin, the satiety hormone produced by fatty tissue that helps to regulate body weight by inhibiting appetite.

Dr Makoto Fukuda, assistant professor of paediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, said: "This new mechanism involving Rap1 in the brain may represent a potential therapeutic target for treating human obesity in the future."

Posted by Jeanette Royston


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