Scientists at the University of British Columbia have discovered a gene that could be an important cause of obesity. The gene, which encodes a protein called 14-3-3zeta, is found in every cell of the body. But when scientists silenced the gene in mice, it resulted in a 50 per cent reduction in the amount of a specific kind of unhealthy “white fat” – the kind associated with obesity, heart disease and diabetes. The fat reduction occurred despite the mice consuming the same amount of food. Mice that were bred to have higher levels of the 14-3-3zeta protein were noticeably bigger and rounder, having an average of 22 per cent more white fat when fed a high calorie diet.
“Until now, we didn’t know how this gene affected obesity,” Johnson said. “This study shows how fundamental research can address major health problems and open up new avenues for drug discovery.”