Genetic Clue to Obesity Discovered

It switches on only in fat cells of obese mice

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MONDAY, July 21, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- American researchers have identified a gene that gets switched on only in the fat cells of obese mice, a discovery that may help find new ways to prevent obesity in humans.

This is the first time scientists have identified a gene that is activated in the fat cells of obese animals. The study by researchers at The Rockefeller University in New York City and the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston appears in the Aug. 1 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

The gene is called Foxa-2. It inhibits young body cells from becoming mature fat-producing cells called adipocytes. The scientists found that when this gene is switched on in mature adipocytes, it functions as a brake that slows down further fat production and storage.

"We know a lot about the various molecular pathways that stimulate or promote fat production, and the focus has been on trying to block these pathways to fight obesity," lead investigator Dr. Markus Stoffel, Rockefeller University, says in a news release.

"We have shown that Foxa-2 has two beneficial effects in mice: it counter-regulates the formation of fat and it increases the activity of genes important for insulin sensitivity. This is the ideal combination for pharmacologically treating obese or type 2 diabetic patients, or people with a risk of developing obesity," Stoffel says.

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SOURCE: Rockefeller University, news release, July 2003

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