Molecule Design to Inhibit Fat Gene

Published:April 27th, 2010

April 2010 Reuters, Singapore – Chinese scientists have attributed obesity to a gene called FTO or the fat mass and obesity-associated gene, and are on the move to design a molecule to shut this down.
Sitting on chromosome 16, this obesity gene have been proven by previous studies to have strong associations with weight gain. Though at its early stages, scientists are still studying how this gene affects obesity and weight gain.
Jijie Chai of the National Institute of Biological Sciences in Beijing tells Reuters that, “Previous studies have been down demonstrating that the FTO accounts for obesity. The gene in question was identified in different ethnic groups – particularly, in Caucasians, Japanese, Koreans, and Chinese.”
“We strongly believe that the FTO, being the culprit behind obesity, is a good subject for treatment. If we can design an inhibitor to shut this gene, this can well  serve as a revolutionary therapy.”
In the latest issue of Nature published just recently, lead scientist Chai along with his colleagues details how the FTO gene is activated, and this is only when it binds to a “single-stranded DNA. It has been found to have no activity whatsoever to double stranded DNA.
“We have been wanting to design a small molecule to act as an inhibitor to shut down FTO activity which primarily accounts for weight gain and obesity. This molecule can be tested to mice for us to derive the results. If the mice lose weight, that is indeed an exciting breakthrough, “ Chai further notes, adding that a similar therapy for obesity and weight gain in humans is still years away.
“We are still far from a drug that will permanently treat or prevent obesity,” says Chai.
Obesity is still an alarming concern not only in the United States and the United Kingdom, but also to both developed and developing nations worldwide. As documented by the World Health Organization, some 1.6 billion adults over 17 years of age are overweight. This data was collected in 2005, and basing from current trends, the WHO projects that this number could double by 2015 – where about 2.3 billion adults are overweight and over 700 million are obese. Globally, about 20 million children are already reported to be obese in 2005.
Obesity and uncontrolled weight gain has been established to aggravate the risks of diabetes, heart ailments, hypertension, stroke, cancer, and premature death.

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