London: Researchers from Columbia University have suggested a gene therapy that will allow dieters to eat less and burn calories at the same rate as they do when eating normally, thus helping them keep off weight gain.
During the study, the team genetically engineered a group of to limit the action of a gene called Cpe.
Their metabolism remained high despite being less hungry and not eating as much as normal mice.
They hope if a similar gene in humans could one day be targeted by drugs, it would allow dieters to keep burning calories at the same rate as they do when eating normally.
Lead researcher Leona Plum of the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Centre at Columbia University`s Medical Centre have found a protein called Fox01 in the brain region of the mice, which controls a gene, Cpe, which is known to make mice susceptible to obesity.
The team genetically engineered mice lacking this protein.
"Interrupting the link between the protein and Cpe caused a different breakdown of neuropeptides – brain chemicals - in the hypothalamus, which made the mice less hungry," New Scientist quoted Plum as saying.
The study showed that the experimental mice did not eat the full amount of food presented to them yet their energy expenditure remained at a normal level.
These mice also ended up 15 percent lighter with 27 percent less body fat.
And because their energy expenditure did not reduce along with their calorie intake, the weight stayed off.
While the specific mechanisms are still unknown, the research presents a possible new target for weight loss drugs.
“Many years down the road, gene therapy could be one thing that would work," said Plum.
The study appears in the journal Nature Medicine.