Liver enzyme might hold the secret to new obesity treatments

Scientists may have just made a breakthrough in treating the obesity epidemic, and the secret, it turns out, is in your liver. Researchers from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio found they could decrease appetite and increase fat shedding in obese mice after inhibiting a liver enzyme, with weight loss as the overall result. 

The enzyme in question, CNOT6L deadenylase, is responsible for controlling the mRNA that instructs two proteins: one that tells the brain when to control food intake and one that signals fat tissue to burn more energy. By using their inhibitor, iD1, to stop CNOT6L, the researchers increased the amount of each protein in the mice’s blood. Consequently, they saw a 30% decrease in both food consumption and body weight after 12 weeks.

If this inhibitor is successfully developed to treat obesity in humans, it could have a serious impact. The obesity rate for U.S. adults is around 42% and is expected to continue climbing, with higher rates in Black and Hispanic communities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2008, obesity had an annual medical cost of $147 billion.

Beyond just obesity itself, this could help combat or prevent related diseases that have also been on the rise, like Type 2 diabetes. In Texas alone, more than 12% of the population has been diagnosed with the chronic illness, and an overwhelming majority of cases are Type 2.

Setting aside the uses for this particular inhibitor, the proof-of-concept opens the door for a whole new way of approaching treatment, which was emphasized by the study’s co-author. “In the treatment of metabolic disease, targeting mRNA is a fairly novel concept,” said Nicolas Musi, M.D., in a press release. “It is a new platform for thinking about how to treat this group of diseases.”

With its steady and concerning rise, obesity is a key area of research and study and has been for a while, with a cancer immunotherapy target recently touted as a potential treatment and a new study potentially explaining how the disease affects the immune system.

There are a whole host of obesity and weight management options on the market, but most medications are either appetite suppressants or block the body’s ability to break down fat. This research opens the door to using mRNA as a target, and, if successfully developed into a drug, the therapy would simultaneously burn fat while decreasing appetite.