Science

Protein that regulates protein production could also control fat levels

Protein that regulates protein...
Scientists have identified a protein that regulates fat levels in worms and could do the same in humans (Photo: Shutterstock)
Scientists have identified a protein that regulates fat levels in worms and could do the same in humans (Photo: Shutterstock)
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Scientists have identified a protein that regulates fat levels in worms and could do the same in humans (Photo: Shutterstock)
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Scientists have identified a protein that regulates fat levels in worms and could do the same in humans (Photo: Shutterstock)

Research around how the body's fat levels are regulated and ways in which they might be manipulated has uncovered numerous potential fat switches. The latest is a particular protein that has long been known to regulate protein synthesis and has now been demonstrated to also control fat levels in worms. This has lead researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) to believe that the version found in the human body could provide a new target for fat-fighting pharmaceuticals.

Scientists have studied the MAF1 protein for some time, but this has largely been limited to its ability to control the production of other proteins. In a study conducted at the USC Davis School of Gerontology, scientists found that the protein is actually capable of much more.

“We’ve known about MAF1 for over a decade, but so far people have only studied it in single cells, where it is known to regulate protein synthesis,” says Sean Curran, assistant professor at USC Davis and on of the study's co-authors. “No one really looked at its effect on the whole organism before.”

Curran and his team modified the MAF1 levels in transparent worms known as C. elegans and found that adding a single copy of the gene expressing MAF1 lowered stored lipids by 34 percent. Conversely, lowering MAF1 levels saw lipids boosted by 94 percent.

The fact that the version of MAF1 in humans has the same protein-producing properties leads the researchers to suspect that it, too, could control the storage of fat cells. If this proves correct, the protein could offer a target for a new breed of pharmaceutical treatments for obesity and weight-related health problems. One other notable finding was that the MAF1 protein can also impact on lipid metabolism in cancer cells, suggesting that it could be used in suppressing cancer cells.

Curran's team next plans to test the fat-fighting ability of MAF1 in mice. If successful, they hope to eventually investigate its potential in humans.

The research findings were published in the journal Cell Reports.

Source: University of Southern California

3 comments
EddieG
Let's just suppose this research bears fruit. You can only begin to imagine the health benefits, especially to a nation of fatsos like America. What should be done with this knowledge? Give it away free? Make it available over the counter for a fair price? Make it available only after you grease your doctor liberally? Make it available only to the rich? Make it illegal so that the diet industry does not collapse? I think you can guess the answer. No good will come from this.
Neil Farbstein
I saw some research reports that say that lipid snored in nonadipose cells cause insulin resistance and that eliminating them cured type 2 diabetes in mice! The gen product discussed int that article reduced lipids in cancer cells as well as fat cells. This might be the starting point for a diabetes cure.
MintHenryJ
Helping overweight worms lose unsightly fat? Their self esteem is already too low for this to be of benefit.