Wednesday, June 08, 2005

New Scientist Breaking News - Gene therapy jab burns off fat

New Scientist Breaking News - Gene therapy jab burns off fat:

"Giving fat rats a gene therapy jab helps them to lose weight by turning their fat-storing cells into fat-burning cells, according to a new study.

A team of US and Swiss scientists used a virus to deliver the gene for the fat-busting hormone leptin to the fat-storing cells of rats predisposed to diabetes.

Within two weeks the rats shed over a quarter of their weight and their appetite decreased by a third. The leptin appeared to convert cells which normally stockpile fat into lean, fatless cells.

'This is the first careful examination of the fat cells after leptin therapy,' says Roger Unger of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, US, and one of the team.

'The structure of the cells changed from the normal appearance of a fat cell to a very novel cell that's really never been seen before,' he says. 'The ability to convert fat cells into fat-burning cells may suggest novel therapeutic strategies for obesity.'

'It's a fascinating paper,' says Steve Bloom, a leading obesity researcher at Imperial College London, UK. But he cautions: 'It's unexpected and very interesting - though against conventional wisdom.'

He told New Scientist that previous trials using 'vast amounts' of leptin in obese humans over many months had no effect on weight loss. But he adds that, if confirmed, the new results may hold some promise."

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