New insights into fatty liver disease
In major find, scientists have discovered a biological switch that regulates a protein that causes fatty liver disease.
"We have learned how the body finely tunes levels of a protein called SCAP that is required to turn on fat production in cells," said Peter Espenshade, professor of cell biology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
"We hope this new information would eventually lead to interventions that could help people suffering from obesity-induced fatty liver disease and diabetes," he added.
Fats, which include cholesterol, are essential to the life of organisms but too much can sabotage systems that rid the body of toxins and regulate hormones, among other functions.
Crucial to the right balance of fats is a family of proteins called sterol regulatory element-binding proteins (SREBPs), which turn on fat-making genes when fat levels in cells are low.
The protein SCAP binds to SREBP before they both make their way to the cellular compartment known as the Golgi.
"We knew lots about this first part of the cycle, but we didn't know what happened to SCAP after it 'dropped off' the SREBP," said Espenshade.
"We don't know what is responsible for freeing SCAP from SREBP but we now understand that SCAP keeps the cycle going," added Espenshade.
"Since SCAP is so central to fat production, we hope this improved understanding of its activity would help develop drugs to better regulate the process, he hoped.
(Posted on 11-02-2014)