Protein that can help battle obesity by speeding up metabolism identified
In an attempt to combat obesity and diabetes, researchers have identified the protein in fat and liver cells that can be altered to accelerate metabolism.
Investigators at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center made the novel discovery by manipulating a biochemical process that underlies cells' energy-burning abilities.
The new findings show that reducing the amount of nicotinamide N-methyltransferase (NNMT) protein in fat and liver dramatically reduces the development of obesity and diabetes in mice.
Senior author Barbara Kahn, from Harvard Medical School, said that they now have a means of metabolic manipulation that could help speed energy production and lead to weight loss.
Co-corresponding author Qin Yang explained that NNMT is an enzyme that processes vitamin B3 and has been linked to certain types of cancer, as well as Alzheimer's disease.
"Now we have identified an entirely new role for this enzyme in fat tissue, and that is to regulate energy metabolism," he added.
The new findings hinge on a biochemical mechanism known as a futile cycle, in which cellular reactions are sped up, thereby generating more energy.
Kahn asserted that some people who can seemingly eat whatever they want and not gain weight and part of the reason for this natural weight control owes to basal cellular metabolism - the body's inherent rate of burning energy.
A futile cycle is one way to speed up energy utilization in cells, he said.
The study is published in the April 10 issue of the journal Nature.
(Posted on 10-04-2014)