Biologists made obese mice lose weight
American molecular biologists have made obese mice lose weight, as well as increased their muscle strength and protected them from developing inflammation and osteoarthritis, using experimental gene therapy, according to the report published by the press service of the University of Washington with reference to an article in the journal Science Advances on Friday.
"Of course, the development of this gene therapy will continue for many years. Nevertheless, we are glad that we have managed to create a very promising method for treating the consequences of osteoarthritis, as well as a means to combat the most extreme forms of obesity," said Professor Farshid Guylak of Washington State University in St. Louis, whose words are quoted by the press service of the University.
In recent years, molecular biologists have created several dozen types of gene therapy that protect humans or animals from developing deadly diseases or restore their abilities lost as a result of minor damage to their genes. Most of them have been tested in action on mice and other animals, but some of them have been used in experiments on humans.
For example, in 2016, British doctors saved the life of a one-year-old girl suffering from leukemia, using gene therapy to edit the DNA of certain types of immune cells. Various types of gene therapy aimed at fighting retinal dystrophy, as well as certain types of cancers, are being prepared for clinical trials.
Gulag and his colleagues have created a gene therapy that can simultaneously eliminate a variety of consequences of obesity, from excess weight and osteoarthritis to inflammation and weakened muscles.
Inflammatory processes, as scientists note, are currently considered one of the main driving factors in the development of both obesity and joint problems. In turn, observations of the health of people suffering from arthritis indicated that the condition of their joints depended on how much of the enzyme follistatin, responsible for the growth of muscle tissue, their body produced. Injections of this protein, as shown by subsequent experiments, significantly improved the condition of patients.
Based on similar considerations, biologists have suggested that increasing the activity of the FST gene responsible for the production of follistatin may protect people suffering from obesity from developing osteoarthritis in old age. They tested this theory on mice on a high-calorie diet.
These experiments unexpectedly showed that gene therapy that forcibly "turned on" FST in mouse cells not only protected them from osteoarthritis but also significantly lowered the concentration of glucose and insulin in their blood, as well as reduced the proportion of many hormones and proteins associated with the development of obesity and systemic inflammation.
Moreover, the rodents that received this treatment were significantly stronger and more resilient than their control group peers, which was due to the fact that increased FST activity led to the accelerated growth of their muscles. All these positive effects, as scientists emphasize, persisted even if the mice continued to eat high-calorie food.
Analogs of such gene therapy, as scientists suggest, can be used in the future to combat obesity and the consequences of its development in the human population. To do this, however, scientists will have to conduct a lot of experiments to study the safety of such therapy and possible side effects from its use.