The Pathway to Obesity

07 December 2008


Scientists have found another chemical involved in obesity - one that could hold promise for preventing diabetes.

Obesity in the 17th CenturyWriting in the journal Cell Metabolism, the researchers (and there's lots of them - from Louisiana state university, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Columbia University Medical Centre, and Cambridge University here in the UK), have identified the role of a protein called adropin, which plays an important role in digestion - regulating a group of genes which affect how energy is stored, including the production of lipids (fats) from carbohydrates that we eat.

Adropin is coded for by a gene called Energy Homeostasis Associated (Enho) - a gene expressed in the in liver and in the brain.  Expression of the gene itself if regulated by the amount of fat in the diet - mice on a very high fat diet showed a rapid increase in adropin, while fasting mice showed a reduction.

This makes adropin one of the first factors shown to be directly related to the amount of fat in our diets, but there's a further twist to this tale.  Obese mice, whether obese because of diet or genetics, don't produce adropin normally, but obese mice given extra adropin show less fat in their livers and respond better to insulin.  These obese mice do eventually lose weight but the benefits, such as reduced liver fat, can be seen long before the weight is lost.

As the gene for adropin is expressed in both the liver and the brain, it could well have some effect on the brain that we do not yet understand, so we still have a long way to go and this certainly isn't a quick fix for obesity or the associated diseases.  However, as adropin seems to be instrumental in the homeostasis of glucose and lipids, it's certainly a candidate for further research.


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