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Reversal of Obesity?

By Ellen Liew

As seen in Pegasus Pages (December 2012).

In the UK, approximately 22% of men and 24% are obese, causing them to have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, and numerous other health complications.

However, excitingly, a team of scientists from the Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Centre have recently managed to reverse obesity in mice. The question is: will the same cure work for humans?

Tyrosine-protein kinase-2 (TYK2) is an enzyme that is said to help reduce obesity. The amount of TYK2 present in the body is dependent on the diet of the person; the enzyme regulates obesity by controlling fat tissue production. There are two types of fat ‒ brown adipose tissue (BAT) and white adipose tissue (WAT). WAT is responsible for long-term energy storage, whereas BAT is responsible for the short-term spending of energy. There is a positive correlation between TYK2 and BAT ‒ if levels of TYK2 are low, then levels of BAT are also low. If this is present in a person, the body is not able to control its energy expenditure; therefore, the person will be obese.

Scientists have found that the levels of Tyk2 were more than 50% lower in obese humans than in non-obese humans. As well as reducing levels of obesity in mice with the use of the TYK2 enzyme, they have also found that it is possible to reverse obesity in the animals, without the addition of an alternative method. They expressed a protein known as signal transducer and activator of transcription-3, (stat3) which regulated the host of cellular processes and formed a complex with a protein (PRDM16), which decreased obesity.

Scientists plan to further investigate TYK2 and Stat3 and hopefully will discover new ways to treat obesity, which will, in turn, hugely reduce the risks of many other diseases.

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