Most drugs developed to treat obesity reduce appetite by influencing signaling systems in the gastrointestinal tract or central nervous system. They don’t work very well, though, and produce unwanted side effects. It would be better to directly target fat cells, or adipocytes, which store excess fat. But attempts to use viruses to insert therapeutic genes into fat cells have failed. Now, researchers have used a peptide to deliver a DNA sequence that de-activates a protein in fat cells involved in fat storage. The idea is to hijack the cell and control how much fat it stores. When the researchers injected this peptide-gene package into obese mice, they observed improvements in metabolic function and a 20 percent reduction in body weight after seven weeks. One concern is that the complex might affect other cell types, but the study suggests a new way to use gene therapy to treat obesity in humans.
Written by Daniel Cossins
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