Disabling a gene in specific mouse cells, researchers at Washington University School of Drugs in St. Louis have prevented mice from becoming overweight, even after the animals had been fed a high-fat diet.
The researchers blocked the activity of a gene in immune cells. Because these immune cells—referred to as macrophages—are key inflammatory cells, and since obesity is related to chronic low-grade inflammation, the researchers imagine that reducing irritation may assist in regulating weight gain and weight problems.
When people are obese, they burn fewer calories than those that aren’t obese. The same is true for mice. However, based on co-first author Wei Zou, MD, Ph.D., assistant professor of pathology and immunology, the researchers discovered that obese mice maintained the same level of calorie-burning as mice that weren’t overweight—after the analysis team deleted the ASXL2 gene within the macrophages of the obese mice and, in the second set of experiments, after they injected the animals with nanoparticles that stimulate the gene’s activity.
Despite high-fat diets, the treated animals burned 45% extra calories than their overweight littermates with a functioning gene in macrophages.
Exactly why this prevented obesity in the mice is not clear. Co-first author Nidhi Rohatgi, instructor in pathology, stated it appears to involve getting white fats cells—which store the fats that makes us obese—to behave more like brown fats cells—which assist in burning saved fat.
The technique is a long way from becoming a remedy, but it has the potential to assist obese people to burn fat at charges similar to rates seen in lean people.