Retooling brain's genetic machinery helps trim fat

Dieters face a common problem. When they reduce the amount of food they eat, their bodies automatically respond by gearing down their metabolism so they store fat more efficiently. Once they start eating normally, their bodies are primed to add layers of fat, and the lost pounds are swiftly added back. But a team of researchers found that if you can control the genetic machinery involved in storing fat, you can keep a subject's metabolism at a normal level while reducing appetite.

The team at the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center in Columbia University's Medical Center tested the hypothesis in mice, eliminating a brain protein that controls the Cpe gene, which has a known link to obesity. The scientists then reduced the amount of food the mice were given by 70 percent. But even after the forced diet, the mice continued at their old pace, without slowing down.

"Interrupting the link between the protein and Cpe caused a different breakdown of neuropeptides--brain chemicals--in the hypothalamus, which made the mice less hungry," says investigator Leona Plum. One day, she adds, the same process could be employed to fight fat in humans.

- read the story from New Scientist

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