Research conducted by the Garvan Institute of Medical Research has shown that a receptor that helps to conserve energy when food is poor is the key to a safer approach to diet-related obesity.
In a study using experimental models and fat tissue biopsies of obese individuals, the team found that blocking a special neuropeptide Y (NPY) receptor that helps our organism to regulate its heat production can increase fat metabolism and prevent weight gain.
“The Y1 receptor acts as a heat break in the body. In our study, we found that the ‘energy-storing’ fat was turned into ‘energy-burner’ fat by blocking this receptor in fat tissues, which switched on heat production and reduced weight growth,” says Dr Yan-Chuan Shi, Garvan’s head of the neuroendocrinology group and co-author of the paper published in Nature Communications.
“Most current medicines for the treatment of obesity target the brain in order to suppress appetite and can have serious side effects which limit its use. Our study shows an alternative approach, aimed directly at fat tissue, that can be a safer way of preventing and treating obesity.
Obesity Linked to Y1 Receptor
Obesity and overweight are key public health problems estimated to affect 2/3 of all adults in Australia. The condition can lead to serious medical complications, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers. Although changes in lifestyle are essential for weight loss, some medication is a crucial complementary treatment option.
The authors of this study examined Y1 receptors controlled by the NPY molecule that are released from starvation to the body to help reduce energy consumption and increase fat storage. Surprisingly, the team found that Y1 receptors were produced in the fat tissue of obese individuals at higher levels.
The team then blocked the Y1 receptor in an obesity mouse model with the experimental treatment BIBO 3304.
“In our study, we found that mice who had BIBO3304 and had a high-fat diet had an increase in body weight of approximately 40 percent in seven weeks over mice on a high-fat diet alone. This significant reduction in body weight gain was caused by an increased production of body heat and a decrease of fat mass,” Dr. Shi says.
“In addition, when we applied BibO3304 to human fat cells that had been isolated from obese persons, we found that cells started switching to the same genes in which heat was produced as mice which suggest that the targeting of the Y1 receptor pathway could similarly increase fat metabolism and reduce human weight gain,” Dr. Shi added.
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