An overweight mouse sits in a human hand.
EDMONTON — A new way of using gene therapy to help those fighting the battle of the bulge has been discovered by University of Alberta researchers.
"This could be very easily translated to clinical trials," said researcher Jason Dyck.
Dyck said it's time other treatments are investigated because so many people are struggling to gain control of their weight.
"Obesity hasn't really been considered a severe enough disease for gene therapy. With the huge number of people that are obese and have type 2 diabetes, it's time we start looking at alternate ways to treat this disease," he said.
The treatment focuses on increasing levels of a hormone released from fat cells.
As a person gains weight and fat cells get larger, the body releases less of this hormone -- called apidonectin.
The thinner a person is, the more of the hormone they release, said Dyck.
Mice were injected with the hormone twice over a thirteen week period, which resulted in less weight gain, higher activity levels, and decreased insulin resistance.
A group fed a high-fat, high-sugar diet coupled with the gene therapy gained less weight, burned more calories, and were more active.
Dyck acknowledged that many might see the therapy as the next quick way to lose weight, but he said it will not be as simple as your average weight loss pill or drink.
"That's what everyone is looking for. Drug companies are looking for that quick pill that's going to cause people to lose weight. This might be a bit more risky, but it could be something people would look towards."
Previous gene-therapy models involved injecting a virus into the body, which Dyck said has proved very dangerous.
"Viruses are very effective at targeting cells and injecting the DNA. They take the virus and put in the theraputic gene and that works really well. But the problem is that viruses cause an immune response, and so you can't give it repeatedly," he said.
"There have even been some deaths associated with (that type of therapy)."
Dyck says because their treatment doesn't involve a virus, getting approval for clinical trials should be faster.
Discussions for trials are still in the preliminary stages.