Researchers at the Western University School of Medicine and Dentistry Schulich may have found a gene that regulates fat accumulation. Scientists used mice as control subjects. Their findings may at some point shed light on why some people struggle with their weight and others not.
At the heart of the topic is a protein in the gene called Pannexin 1, said Silvia Penuela, PhD, assistant professor at Schulich.
"When we remove this gene, we see that mice make much more fat," he said in an interview with CBC Radio's Afternoon Drive.
There are two ways to accumulate fat, according to Penuela. One is to create more fat cells. The other is to make larger fat cells. That said it happened in the mice.
"So far, we can see that fat cells in mice grow so they can accumulate much more fat." said Penela. "This we saw in the mouse, regardless of diet [the mouse] had a diet high in fat or a normal diet, unfortunately in both cases they would accumulate the same fat. "
There was also a greater risk of type 2 diabetes.
People versus mice
"Of course we have to see how it plays in humans," Puebla said.
This work has just begun by analyzing samples from liposuction or breast reduction surgery.
"So we can get the fat cells from [human] patients and control the expression of this gene or Pannexin 1, "he said. We are trying to see if we can associate the amount of Pannexin 1 with this patient's tendency to accumulate fat and perhaps draw some conclusions based on this. "
Penuela warns that we are not close to finding obesity treatment or intervention even though this is the ultimate goal.
"Many, many years of this, unfortunately, but at least now we think we can use it as a bio-index only to see if we can probably predict some patients with this deficiency or mutation … that makes them more likely to accumulate fat. "
While unlocking all the nuances of a possible genetic link to obesity may be years away, Penuela hopes that this study will create interest and funds to continue the research.
"I hope this happens," he said. "This is the first study showing a link between Pannexin 1 and fat accumulation."
The survey is published in Scientific reports.