Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center believe that the gene, adipose, controls whether or not people tend to pile on fat. They say that the gene is likely to be a high-level master switch that tells the body whether to accumulate or burn fat.
The investigators examined how adipose works by analyzing fruit flies, C. elegans, cultured cells, and genetically engineered mice. They manipulated the gene in the various animals, turning the gene on and off at different stages in the animals’ lives and in various parts of their bodies.
In the mice, the team report that increasing adipose activity improved the animals’ health in many ways. Even though they ate as much or more than normal mice, these mice were leaner, had diabetes-resistant fat cells, and were better able to control insulin and blood-sugar metabolism. In contrast, animals with reduced adipose activity were fatter, less healthy, and had diabetes.
The scientists’ work on flies showed that combinations of the gene’s variants lead to a range of body types from slim to medium to obese.
The study will appear in the September 5 issue of Cell Metabolism.