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Genetic Tweak Helps Mice Avoid Cancer, Obesity: Study
Date:3/6/2012

ndant and active in mice, but in humans it is scarce," Serrano explained. "At present, it is not known whether pushing the brown fat in humans will have a significant effect in fat burning."

Serrano said drugs are now in development that tinker with the gene in an effort to fight cancer.

Dr. Aaron Cypess, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School who studies obesity, said the research appears to be valid and useful.

"There's a connection being made between tumor-suppressing genes, which prevent cancers from growing, and energy expenditure -- consuming calories," he said. "We know that obesity can lead to cancer in humans. This makes the arrow go the other direction. What it's saying is that no cancer leads to no obesity."

There's a big caveat, however. "While the mouse is a very useful model to understand humans, there are a lot of differences between mice and men," Cypess said. "Practically speaking, just because something happens in a mouse model doesn't mean it's going to happen in a human. We are very different."

In a related study in the journal, researchers at the University of California, Irvine, found that blocking production of a marijuana-like compound in the brain boosted mice's metabolism of brown fat. These mice were able to eat more and move less than typical mice, without gaining weight or developing symptoms that can raise the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

More information

For more about obesity, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

SOURCES: Manuel Serrano, Ph.D., senior group leader, Spanish National Cancer Research Center, Madrid, Spain; Aaron M. Cypess, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor, Harvard Medical School, Boston; March 2012, Cell Metabolism


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