Tiny strands of RNA affect how our cells burn fat and sugar a finding that gives biologists a place to start in the quest for therapies to treat obesity and related health problems, said scientists at Virginia Tech and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.
Mice on high fat diets are resistant to obesity when two mini-molecules called microRNAS are missing from their genetic makeup, according to a study this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science
The discovery suggests that treatments targeting these two specific microRNAs may help stem the nation's obesity epidemic. More than one-third of adults in the United States and about 17 percent of the nation's children are obese, increasing their risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and some cancers, according to the National Institutes of Health.
"Scientists know the best health solution for obesity involves eating less and exercising more," said Matthew W. Hulver, Ph.D., an associate professor with the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech. "But in cases when people can't or won't exercise, if we can identify what is contributing to the regulation of our metabolic circuits, we can target it with a drug or pharmacologic solution."
Once considered to be little more than scrap DNA, scientists now know microRNAs have an important role in regulating how genes shape human health and behavior. They have been linked to heart disease, diabetes, hepatitis C, leukemia, lymphoma, and breast cancer.
Although microRNAs previously have been linked to obesity, the new findings are the first to establish a connection between microRNAs and cellular metabolism.
MicroRNA biologists at UT Southwestern Medical Center modified mice to be genetically unable to produce microRNA-378 and its cousin miR-378*, resulting in relatively trim anima
|Contact: John Pastor|