Imagine eating as much junk food as you want without gaining any weight. Sounds like a dream, doesn't it? Well actually, it may soon be a reality.
Cardiology professor Anne Eichmann and associate research scientist Feng Zang led a team of scientists at Yale University that accidentally discovered an anti-weight gain drug during an experiment to create a really fat mouse, according to their study recently published in the journal Science.
While editing out two lymphatic tissue genes to prevent the uptake of fat particles called chylomicrons that they believed would make the mouse large and in charge, they inadvertently gave the mouse the ability to consume a lot of food and gain only little weight.
Over an eight-week span, several mice were fed a high-fat diet with some given a drug to block a protein called vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF-A) in their bodies. Quite by accident, the scientists discovered the drug they administered to some of the mice had actually prevented fat from being transferred into the stomach through pores.
"We found that a molecular mechanism to close these pores inhibits fat uptake in mice," Eichmann told Wired. "Instead of being taken up into tissues, much of the fat is excreted in the feces, and mice do not gain much weight on a high-fat diet."
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Further research done by the Yale group proved that the same anti-weight gaining effect could be induced on mice whose Rho-associated protein kinase (ROCK) was inhibited.
A drug that could prevent fat from being absorbed into the stomach could have a dramatic effect on the obesity crisis. So, now the big question is, can humans have the same effect?
Experts have currently only been able to edit the genes out of rodents, who also happened to show some unpleasant side effects during the experiment. Some of the mice who were administered the fat-blocking drug developed edema, which is when parts of the body swell up because of excess liquid gathering in tissues.
The same part of the body that uptakes fat also uptakes liquid, so blocking one would affect the other.
Eichmann told Wired that the mice could handle these effects but edema would definitely need to be prevented if the drug were to even be used on humans. Unfortunately, we likely won't see this available to us for a while, as more research still needs to be done before the drug can make the transition from mice to people.
For now, we'll have to stick with a healthy diet and regular exercise; no magic diet pill for us just yet.