Switching off a single gene may hold the key to allowing individuals to indulge in a high-calorie diet without gaining excess weight, according to a study conducted by experts from the University of California San Diego.
The research, which involved studying mice, identified a crucial gene responsible for fat cells losing their ability to burn energy effectively.
In experiments where rodents were fed a high-fat diet, the researchers observed that the cells in the mice broke down and became less efficient at burning fat.
This phenomenon could potentially explain why obesity is often associated with a slowdown in metabolism.
The scientists pinpointed a specific gene that, when removed through gene-editing techniques, prevented the mice from gaining excess weight despite being on the same high-fat diet.
Dr. Alan Saltiel, the lead author of the study and a professor of medicine at UC San Diego, explained that overeating can lead to weight gain and trigger a metabolic cascade that reduces energy burning, exacerbating the challenges of obesity.
The identified gene was deemed a critical component in the transition from a healthy weight to obesity.
The research delved into the impact of obesity on mitochondria, seeking to understand why obesity tends to slow down metabolism, making it difficult for individuals to lose weight.
Dr. Saltiel emphasized that chronic activation of the identified gene, RaIA, seems to play a pivotal role in suppressing energy expenditure in obese adipose tissue.
By comprehending this mechanism, the researchers believe they are a step closer to developing targeted therapies that could address weight gain and associated metabolic dysfunctions by enhancing fat burning.
The study found that some of the proteins affected by RaIA in mice are similar to human proteins linked to obesity and insulin resistance, suggesting potential similarities in mechanisms at play in humans.