Medical

Bacteria farms produce protein that clears fat from bloodstream

Bacteria farms produce protein...
Corresponding author of the study Sean Davidson
Corresponding author of the study Sean Davidson
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Sean Davidson (left) and Mark Castleberry (right), researchers on the study
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Sean Davidson (left) and Mark Castleberry (right), researchers on the study
Corresponding author of the study Sean Davidson
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Corresponding author of the study Sean Davidson

Fats are important for providing energy for the body – but as we all know, too much of the stuff is bad for us. Triglycerides are a form of fat that circulates through the bloodstream, and high levels can lead to obesity and related illnesses. Now, researchers at the University of Cincinnati have found a way to produce a protein that clears these fats from the bloodstream.

When you eat more fat than your body immediately needs for energy – which is easy to do in our fast food-heavy modern world – it’s converted into triglycerides. This is stored in adipose tissue until it’s needed, but often ends up roaming the body in the bloodstream too. In higher amounts, triglycerides contribute to conditions like obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The body has some mechanisms to keep this under control. A protein called Apolipoprotein A5 (APOA5) is produced in the liver, and known for clearing out triglycerides. And this was the focus for the new study.

“APOA5 is highly involved in how fast triglycerides get taken out of your circulation,” says Sean Davidson, corresponding author of the study. “The more APOA5 you have the faster the triglyceride is removed. Everybody agrees it is an important protein but scientists don’t know much about its structure or how it does what it does. If we could figure out how it works we could come up with a drug that uses the same mechanism or trigger it to work better.”

Sean Davidson (left) and Mark Castleberry (right), researchers on the study
Sean Davidson (left) and Mark Castleberry (right), researchers on the study

To investigate, the team inserted the human gene that codes for APOA5 into bacteria. This allows the scientists to produce more of the protein much faster than is possible through isolating it from human blood. Previous studies have only produced fairly low yields from this method, but by making a few tweaks to the process the team managed to make around 25 milligrams per liter.

Then, they tested how well it works to clear out triglycerides from the bloodstream of mice fed a high-fat diet. After purifying the APOA5, they administered it to these mice with promising results.

“We could analyze their blood after we fed them and observe the level of fat change as they digested the meal,” says Mark Castleberry, first author of the study. “We were able to give our protein to the mice that had that fatty meal and rapidly clear the triglycerides that would have accumulated in their blood.”

While these results are promising, it is of course early days. There’s no guarantee that the study will successfully carry across to humans, but it could inspire new avenues of research related to mimicking the protein in humans.

The research was published in the Journal of Lipid Research.

Source: University of Cincinatti

3 comments
piperTom
Sure it's nice to clear fats from the bloodstream... but where does it go?
ljaques
Good news, if the bacteria are liver and kidney-friendly.
Douglas Rogers
I am 73 and live on fat and my triglycerides are low. I have known people with high triglycerides who drink mainly pop. I don't drink any pop but mainly coffee and wine, with the rest water and lemon exercise drink.