Science & Research, University News

Human enzyme keeps mice slim

By
Arts & Culture Staff Writer
Thursday, November 17, 2011

A high-fat diet may not always pack on the pounds, new research from the Warren Alpert Medical School suggests. By successfully preventing weight gain in mice, researchers have shed light on obesity prevention in humans. The study was released online last week and will be published in the January 2012 issue of Endocrinology, a science journal.

Even though the mice were on a high-fat diet, researchers were able to significantly reduce their weight gain by activating a human enzyme called IKKbeta in their fatty tissue. The enzyme normally triggers immune responses, such as inflammation, following increases in the number of human fat cells.

Researchers were curious to see what would happen if they reversed the order of events by activating the enzyme prior to weight gain.

They found that in addition to reduced weight gain, the mice with the activated enzyme also had faster metabolisms. In these mice, insulin was more effective at lowering blood sugar than it was in the mice that had not been treated.

The activated enzyme also inhibited resistance to insulin, another side effect of obesity.

The study has definite implications for helping people who suffer from conditions characterized by insulin resistance, such as Type 2 diabetes patients, said Haiyan Xu, assistant professor of medicine.

“For treating insulin resistance, it’s really going to work,” Xu said. Scientists are already applying this research to humans, she said. Xu and her team are in the process of designing future research projects on Type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance.