Protein expands obesity arsenal

Researchers discover what could potentially be a promising new weight loss treatment.

A new study led by a Canadian researcher reveals how a small protein acts directly within muscles to increase the body's metabolism to burn fat while at the same time suppressing appetite. The protein is knows as the ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF).

Results show CNTF protects against some of the effects of obesity by activating an enzyme -- skeletal muscle AMP kinase -- that increases the body's ability to metabolize fat and sugar. The protein activates similar pathways to those stimulated by exercise. This could lead to new treatments for metabolic abnormalities linked to excess weight.

"While hormones such as leptin were initially thought to be the cure-all for weight loss, they were later found to be ineffective in obesity due to the presence of proteins which inhibit their ability to stimulate fat metabolism," says lead researcher Dr. Greg Steinberg, of the University of Melbourne in Australia. "Fortunately, CNTF's effects on fat burning are maintained", reports Ivanhoe.

However, some experts say the importance of the discovery is not that a new weight loss drug may be right around the corner, but that there may be more than one way to fight obesity with medication.

'The importance of CNTF is the biology and not necessarily that we have a new therapy,' said Joshua Hare, a cardiac researcher and biomedical engineering professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, who has done research using CNFT as a treatment for heart disease. 'We know that there is another pathway in the body that can be manipulated to combat obesity,' he said.

'What would be of great interest, would be to find some other molecule that could enable the reaction of CNTF without the reaction,' said Hare. 'But knowing the pathway is there is important for discovering new ways to look at obesity,' Hare added, informs Monsters and Critics.

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