Protein 'switch' could be key to fighting obesity, diabetes

The body has a "fat switch," researchers at the University of Warwick in the U.K. and the University of Southern California-Los Angeles have found. Its name is carnitine palmitoyltransferase 1A, or CPT 1, and it could be the key to fighting obesity.

Lead researcher Victor Zammit, head of metabolic and vascular health at Warwick Medical School, and his team determined that the enzyme is turned on depending on the composition and shape of its cellular membrane. This is important because CPT1 regulates fatty acid oxidation in the liver, and the protein is key to controlling metabolism.

Developing a way to control CPT1 "would be a major breakthrough in tackling the obesity crisis we now face," Zammit said in a statement.

In other words, the way CPT1 behaves determines your weight, and how well you metabolize food. So knowing how CPT1 operates will potentially help to better understand how proteins control appetite or regulate the secretion of insulin. Take that idea further, and scientists should be able to design a drug that moves the CPT1 "switch" where it needs to be, addressing weight or metabolic conditions.

One potential condition this could help: diabetic keto acidosis. This takes place when the body doesn't make enough insulin and breaks down fat instead. A potential drug could reduce the fatty acids CPT1 oxidizes, the researchers said.

Details are published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

- here's the release
- check out the paper abstract

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