Gene therapy may treat obesity

March 10th, 2009 - 1:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, March 10 (IANS) Alarmed by the rise in obesity, researchers are examining the possibility of injecting a gene directly into one of the critical feeding and weight control centres of the brain.
“Obesity significantly increases the risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke and some cancers,” said Matthew During, the study’s co-author and professor at Ohio State University Medical Center.

“Our findings represent a promising new treatment for obesity that could ultimately provide a much safer and more effective approach than some conventional therapies,” he said.

Scientists have discovered that a particular gene, BDNF, when active in the hypothalamus, can result in improved insulin sensitivity, reduced fat mass and weight loss.

Lei Cao, a co-author and assistant professor of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics, said the study involved injecting the BDNF gene in normal mice, diabetic mice and mice fed with a high fat diet, to determine how the gene transfer would affect their weight.

“The gene was active in the overweight mice, but as they lost weight the gene expression was essentially ‘dialed down,’ using a novel RNA interference approach, thus stopping the weight from continuing to decrease and allowing a stable target weight to be reached,” she said.

During indicated that with the initial results showing great promise, the next step would be to obtain the necessary FDA approvals to begin studying the therapy in humans at OSUMC and other centres, said the Ohio Centre in a statement.

More than a third of US adults, or 72 million people, and 16 percent of US children are obese. Since 1980, obesity rates for adults have doubled and rates for children have tripled.

The findings were published online in the journal Nature Medicine.

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