Washington: Researchers, including one of Indian origin, have found a protein, which when absent, helps the body to burn fat and prevents insulin resistance and obesity. (Agencies)
University of Florida researchers have identified a protein called TRIP-Br2, and are keen on developing drugs that target and mimic its absence further allowing prevention of obesity without relying solely on lifestyle modifications. The discovery could aid development of drugs that not only prevent obesity, but also spur weight loss in people who are already overweight, one of the study's co-authors and principal investigator Stephen Hsu said.
"The problem is when these studies end and the people go off the protocols, they almost always return to old habits and end up eating the same processed foods they did before and gain back the weight they lost during the study," he said.
Identified for the first time by Hsu, TRIP-Br2 helps regulate how fat is stored in and released from cells. To understand its role, the researchers compared mice that lacked the gene responsible for production of the protein, with normal mice that had the gene.
They quickly discovered that mice missing the TRIP-Br2 gene did not gain weight no matter what they ate even when placed on a high-fat diet and were otherwise normal and healthy. On the other hand, the mice that still made TRIP-Br2 gained weight and developed associated problems such as insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol when placed on a high-fat diet.
The normal and fat-resistant mice ate the same amount of food, ruling out differences in food intake as a reason why the mice lacking TRIP-Br2 were leaner.
"TRIP-Br2 is important for the accumulation of fat," said Rohit N Kulkarni, also a senior author of the paper and an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and the Joslin Diabetes Center.
"When an animal lacks TRIP-Br2, it can't accumulate fat," Kulkarni noted. "It turns out this protein is a master regulator. It
coordinates expression of a lot of genes and controls the release of the fuel form of fat and how it is metabolised," Hsu said.
When TRIP-Br2 is absent, fat cells dramatically increase the release of free fatty acids and also burn fat to produce the molecular fuel called ATP that powers mitochondria the cell's energy source. In addition, cells free from the influence of TRIP-Br2 start using free fatty acids to generate thermal energy, which protects the body from exposure to cold.
"If a patient started off fat, he or she would burn the weight off. If people are at risk of obesity and its associated conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, it would help keep them lean regardless of how much fat they ate. That is the ideal anti-obesity drug, one that prevents obesity and helps people burn off excess weight," Hsu added.
Washington: Researchers, including one of Indian origin, have found a protein, which when absent, helps the body to burn fat and prevents insulin resistance and obesity.