Researchers at the University of Wisconsin have observed that mice lacking a specific gene can eat a high-fat diet without either putting on weight or developing diabetes. The gene called SCD-1 codes for a protein which the body needs to make the fatty acids found in fat tissue.They have created a 'knockout' mouse that lacks SCD-1. Such animals can eat a rich, high-fat diet but do not put on weight. Nor do they develop high blood sugar and insulin resistance, which would put them at risk of diabetes. Instead, the burn the fatty acids which would normally be laid down in fat.
The mice were compared to a group of normal mice eating the same high fat diet. The control group became obese and diabetic - just as humans would under the same conditions. The discovery opens the way to a better understanding of diet, obesity and diabetes - and the complex relationship between them. It may even lead to a new treatment for obesity and new approaches for preventing the development of diabetes.