The CD36 discovery follows research that had identified a role for the gene in rats and mice. Scientists had learned that when animals are genetically engineered without a working CD36 gene, they no longer display a preference for fatty foods. In addition, animals that can't make the CD36 protein have difficulty digesting fat.
Up to 20 percent of people are believed to have the variant in the CD36 gene that is associated with making significantly less CD36 protein. That, in turn, could mean they are less sensitive to the presence of fat in food.
Abumrad was the first to identify CD36 as the protein that facilitates the uptake of fatty acids. She says better understanding of how the protein works in people could be important in the fight against obesity.
People with obesity are at an elevated risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, arthritis and other problems. Obesity rates have risen dramatically over the past 30 years as more people have become sedentary, and diets incorporate more hamburgers, French fries, fried chicken and other high-fat foods.
"Diet can affect sensitivity to fat, and in animals, diet also influences the amount of CD36 that's made," Pepino says. "If we follow the results in animals, a high-fat diet would lead to less production of CD36, and that, in turn, could make a person less sensitive to fat. From our results in this study, we would hypothesize that people with obesity may make less of the CD36 protein. So it would seem logical that the amounts of the protein we make can be modified, both by a person's genetics and by the di
|Contact: Jim Dryden|
Washington University School of Medicine