Researchers have discovered that a particular gene, BDNF, can pave the way for promising new treatment for obesity that is much safer and effective than other conventional therapies.
For the study, the researchers analyzed a potentially long-term treatment that involves injecting a gene directly into one of the critical feeding and weight control centers of the brain.
"Obesity significantly increases the risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke and some cancers," Nature quoted Dr. Matthew During, senior author and professor in Ohio State Medical Center's department of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics, as saying.
He added: "Our findings represent a promising new treatment for obesity that could ultimately provide a much safer and more effective approach than some conventional therapies."
Researchers found that BDNF can result in improved insulin sensitivity, reduced fat mass and weight loss when active in the hypothalamus.
First author Lei Cao, assistant professor in the department of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics, said that the study involved injecting the BDNF gene in normal mice, diabetic mice and mice fed with a high fat diet, to determine how the gene transfer would affect their weight.
"The gene was active in the overweight mice, but as they lost weight the gene expression was essentially 'dialed down,' using a novel RNA interference approach, thus stopping the weight from continuing to decrease and allowing a stable target weight to be reached," she said.
During indicated that with the initial results showing great promise, the next step is to obtain the necessary FDA approvals to begin studying the therapy in humans at OSU Medical Center and other centers around the country.
The findings are published online in the journal Nature Medicine.