'Master switch' gene may help control obesity

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Washington, Sept 4 (ANI): Scientists from University of Michigan claim to have discovered a gene, which when switched off, can control obesity in mice and help them remain thin.

According to Alan Saltiel, the Mary Sue Coleman Director of the U-M Life Sciences Institute, deleting the gene, called IKKE, appears to protect mice against conditions that, in humans, lead to Type 2 diabetes, which is associated with obesity.

He said that if follow-up studies confirm IKKE is tied to obesity in humans, the gene and the protein it will be prime targets for the development of drugs to treat obesity and diabetes.

"We've studied other genes associated with obesity - we call them 'obesogenes' - but this is the first one we've found that, when deleted, stops the animal from gaining weight," said Saltiel, senior author of a paper.

"The fact that you can disrupt all the effects of a high-fat diet by deleting this one gene in mice is pretty interesting and surprising," Saltiel added.

During the study, the high-fat-diet mice were fed a lard-like substance with 45 percent of its calories from fat. Control mice were fed standard chow with 4.5 percent of its calories from fat.

The gene IKKE produces a protein kinase also known as IKKE. The IKKE protein kinase appears to target proteins, which, in turn, control genes that regulate the mouse metabolism.

When the high-fat diet is fed to a normal mouse, IKKE protein-kinase levels rise, the metabolic rate slows, and the animal gains weight. In that situation, the IKKE protein kinase acts as a brake on the metabolism.

The new study showed that knockout mice placed on the high-fat diet did not gain weight, apparently because deleting the IKKE gene releases the metabolic brake, allowing it to speed up and burn more calories, instead of storing those calories as fat.

The new study is published in the journal Cell. (ANI)

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