Imagine a treatment that would allow you to eat as many calories as you like without risk of becoming obese or diabetic. This miracle cure, U.S. researchers come to the point… in mice1.
A genetic modification, mice a high-calorie diet are resistant to weight gain and diabetes. The trick was to create genetically modified animals to produce a gene called UCP 1 (protein uncoupling or thermogenin) in their muscles.
The gene that makes the energy balance
Present in humans as in mice, the UCP genes play a fundamental role in the energy balance. There are in fact three types: the UCP 1, which are found in some fat cells (Brown adipocytes); and the UCP 2 and 3, located mainly in the muscles. In the absence of these genes UCP, an excess of calories is stored as fat. If they are enabled, the caloric surplus is burned and dissipates as heat. The susceptibility of an individual to obesity would thus in part tied to its UCP gene expression.
Hence the idea of researchers to increase the activity of these “fat burners” to reduce the risk of overweight.
Doped mice remain slender
In the experiment, a group of wild mice (control) has been compared to both groups of animals genetically engineered to produce the UCP: one with a low expression of the gene and the other with a stronger expression. Result: subjected to identical high calorie regimes, their reaction is quite different. The doped mice to UCP grow less. In addition, they retain a better blood glucose and triglyceride as their small fellow witnesses. And they better meet the test for insulin, evidence that they are not becoming diabetic. At the same time, their level of muscle oxygen consumption is increased.
A utopia in humans?
“Our results support the idea that obesity and its complications can be treated by promoting an inefficient metabolism at the level of the muscles”, conclude the researchers.
However, it is difficult to give immediate hopes to 1.5 million diabetics and 6 million French obese. “This interesting experience confirms that it is useful to enable the expression of UCP1.” But treating the obese by this type of gene therapy seems somewhat utopian commented on Pr Donny Strosberg (CNRS and Hybrigenics) “.” But rest assured, there are many other ways of research. An American team of Harvard2 just leave a new door open by identifying two molecules (GATA-2 and 3) who are involved in the synthesis of fat cells.