According tomedia reports, the most pressing health problems of the time now seem to start with obesity, so in many cases, treating the root cause of obesity may be the best choice. Now, researchers from Yale University have found an enzyme in mice that could be a potential target for future treatments, like a “watchdog” that prevents carbohydrates from entering fat cells.
What many people may not realize is that obese people don’t have more fat cells than slim people — just that their fat cells get bigger. As more carbohydrates enter the body, they accumulate within these cells and cause the cells to expand.
To regulate this process, fat cells are surrounded by molecules that balance the input nutrients with the output of the energy-carrying lipids. Researchers at Yale University described the molecules as hotel gatekeepers. The problem is that in visceral fat cells, these janitors are a little lax, allowing too much carbohydrate to enter the body before burning the body’s lipids. This, in turn, causes the cell’s head to become larger.
In a new study at Yale University, researchers say they have successfully identified an enzyme that regulates these molecules. Previous studies have suggested that O-GlcNAc transfer assasis (OGT) is associated with telling the body when to eat enough food.
The Yale team experimented with mice and found that mice lacking the enzyme were much healthier. These animals tend to consume stored fat before consuming more carbohydrates, which means they have smaller fat cells and therefore thinner overall. In another group of mice, the researchers obtained the opposite result by over-expressing OGT, namely, the onset of obesity.
“The command of this doorman makes nutrients easier to enter, but lipids are harder to excrete,” said Xiaoyong Yang, the study’s lead author. This makes OGT a very attractive drug target for obesity. “
Like such a study, the study does not guarantee that the results will be transferred from mice to humans, but it is an interesting new finding that could provide scientists with a potential way to treat obesity.
The study was published in Nature Communications.