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article imageBlocking an obesity-linked protein can stop fat forming

By Tim Sandle     May 7, 2015 in Science
Blocking genes in mice to halt a protein linked with obesity prevents fat from forming, according to a new study. The focus was on preventing fat forming within the internal organs of the animals.
The reason for looking at what happens to internal organs is due to the severe health effects that fat build up can have on organs like the stomach, especially the association with type 2 diabetes. Here, visceral fat attracts a type of macrophage (immune cells that attack infections and damaged cells). The macrophages (called class M1’s) generate proteins that cause the body harm through triggering insulin resistance. In a sense, the body starts to work against itself.
The protein that causes this is called interferon regulatory factor-5 (IRF-5). For this reason,The Scientist reports, a research group in the U.K. wanted to see what would happen if IRF-5 was deleted and if this would have a beneficial effect on an animal.
For the research, mice bred not to have the gene that allowed IRF-5 to form were fed a healthy diet and a diet designed to trigger obesity. Both groups of genetically modified mice gained weight. However, the mice fed the high fat diet piled on the fat under the skin, rather than around the internal organs in their stomach. In mice with the gene, fat deposits would have built up in the stomach.
A further outcome of interest, in relation to diabetes, was that the mice retained their sensitivity to insulin (this is normally blunted by obesity), despite the gain in weight. This was shown by giving mice glucose drinks and tracking how the sugar was processed in the body.
The connection here is that there is an association between building fat deposits around the stomach and developing type 2 diabetes; whereas animals that build up fat elsewhere (such as on their legs) do not have the same association with diabetes.
The researchers think that the same effects could occur with people and they recommend that this is a line for further inquiry.
The study was carried out by scientists from Oxford University. The findings have been published in the science journal Nature Medicine. The research paper is called “Irf5 deficiency in macrophages promotes beneficial adipose tissue expansion and insulin sensitivity during obesity.”
More about Obesity, Fat, Protein, Molecular
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