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Clock Gene Plays Role in Weight Gain, Study Finds

Scientists at the University of Virginia and the Medical College of Wisconsin have discovered that a gene that participates in the regulation of the bodys biological rhythms may also be a major control in regulating metabolism.

Their finding shows that mice lacking the gene Nocturnin, which is regulated by the circadian clock in the organs and tissues of mammals, are resistant to weight gain when put on a high fat diet and also are resistant to the accumulation of fat in the liver. This new understanding of weight gain could potentially lead to therapies for inhibiting obesity and for treating its effects on health.

Its been known for some time that there are many links between the circadian clock and various aspects of physiology and metabolism, said Carla Green, the studys lead author and an associate professor of biology at the University of Virginia. This study suggests that Nocturnin is part of the network that the circadian clock uses to control important aspects of metabolism. A better understanding of Nocturnins function could eventually lead to medical treatments that could counteract the problems of obesity, which has become a major issue in modern society.

Biological clocks are the bodys internal timekeepers that regulate organs and activity/rest cycles by controlling energy levels, alertness, growth, moods and the effects of aging. Research in this field has many health implications for dealing with aging, jet lag, sleep disorders, shift work and dieting.

Green and her colleagues used regular mice and genetically altered mice in which the Nocturnin gene was knocked out. The Nocturnin-deficient mice were divided into two groups; one group fed a normal diet, the other a very high fat diet. A group of normal mice were also fed a high fat diet.

The researchers found that both groups of the genetically altered mice maintained normal weight and activity levels, and, of particular interest,
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