Couch potato mouse may lead to new obesity drug

A group of investigators at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute in Orlando created a new breed of rodent they call the "couch potato mouse." In doing so, they've gained some insights into a new therapeutic approach to obesity.

The scientists wanted to test a theory that low levels of PGC-1 protein could trigger diabetes, so they developed mice that had low levels of the protein. But instead of gaining weight and developing diabetes, the mice simply slowed down. Way down. While the average mouse could rack up 170 minutes on a treadmill, the Sanford-Burnham breed could only complete a mere 6.6 minutes. "It's always difficult to know whether reduced exercise is simply because of the extra weight that someone's carrying around," said Dr. Daniel Kelly. "The surprising part in this study was that we were able to create this animal that was unable to exercise at all, independent of the obesity."

So now the investigators say that rather than try and treat diabetes with the protein, a new therapy could be used to boost levels in obese patients, giving them a needed physiological spur as they begin a new regimen of exercise and diet. "They'd be put on an exercise program," Kelly said. "But they'd have this early-stage therapy to help them break that vicious cycle."

- take a look at the LA Times story

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