Washington: Good news for people who want to eat fat and lose weight at the same time, as a team of researchers has identified a way to prevent fatty fat cells from growing and gaining weight and obesity.
According to researchers at the University of Washington in St. Louis, USA, by activating the Hedgehog pathway in the fat cells of mice, they could feed the animals a high-fat diet without being obese.
Lead researcher Fanxin Long said that this could lead to a new therapeutic goal to treat obesity. "What is particularly important is that the animals in our study ate a high-fat diet but did not gain weight, and in people, too much fat in the diet is a common cause of obesity," Long added.
They explained that fat gain is mainly due to the increase in the size of fat cells and each adult cell grows so that it can contain larger fat drops. A person gains weight mainly because the fat cells grow, instead of having more fat cells. He focused on the so-called route of the Hedgehog protein that is active in many tissues of the body.
His team designed mice with genes that activated the Hedgehog pathway in fat cells when those animals ate a high-fat diet. The results suggested that after eight weeks of eating the high-fat diet, controlling animals whose Hedgehog pathways had not been activated became obese. But the mice that had been designed with genes to activate the pathway did not gain more weight than the control animals that consumed normal diets.
The Hedgehog pathway prevented obesity by inhibiting the size of fat cells, Long said. By stimulating Hedgehog and related proteins in fat cells, Long's team prevented the fat cells of the animals from collecting and storing fat droplets. "If we can devise strategies to carefully target the fat cells, then I think that activating this pathway could be effective in the fight against obesity," he said.
People with obesity have an increased risk of stroke, heart attack, diabetes and cancer.
The research appears in the eLife magazine.