April 09, 2011
Big Gene Search Turns Up Obesity Gene

A mildly interesting discovery turns up a gene that might some day help lead to a treatment for insulin-resistant diabetes. But the actual discovery isn't the most important part of it.

LA JOLLA, CA New research by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute and collaborating institutions has identified a key regulator of fat cell development that may provide a target for obesity and diabetes drugs.

In a paper published in the latest issue of Cell Metabolism, the scientists describe a protein called TLE3 that acts as a dual switch to turn on signals that stimulate fat cell formation and turn off those that keep fat cells from developing. TLE3 works in partnership with a protein that is already the target of several diabetes drugs, but their use has been plagued by serious side effects.

What is especially interesting: the scientists were able to test 18,000 genes to discover the importance of just one gene.

To find additional players in adipocyte formation, Saez, Tontonoz, and colleagues induced cells growing in a dish to differentiate into adipocytes. The scientists then individually tested the ability of 18,000 genes to augment the conversion of undifferentiated cells into fully functioning adipocytes, looking for genes that might play a role in this process.

In this way, they identified the gene encoding the TLE3 protein, which had never before been linked to fat development.

Our cells and bodies are enormously complex. Studying one gene at a time won't get us to many major treatments in our lifetimes. Only massive parallel searches and parallel interventions (e.g. with large numbers of gene arrays and microfluidic devices) can provide the massive amounts of information we need to do detailed reverse-engineering of the human body.

The speed with which research tools get more powerful is the rate-limiting factor for how soon we will get major rejuvenation therapies. Given sufficiently powerful tools the body can be reverse-engineered orders of magnitude faster.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2011 April 09 11:14 AM  Biotech Advance Rates


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