Skinny genes coming soon? Scientists use CRISPR to reduce fat storage in mice

SEOUL, South Korea — Since the rise of CRISPR, the groundbreaking gene-editing technology that alters DNA sequences to enhance or quiet the expression of specific genes, scientists have sought out ways to use the tool to improve health conditions in humans. Now, according to a new study, researchers are able to use CRISPR to reduce the body weight of mice by a staggering 20 percent!

Perhaps even more incredible is the mice in the study did not reduce food intake or increase exercise, and yet experienced this very significant reduction in fat storage.

To put these results into perspective, the average weight of men and women in the United States is 197.8 pounds and 170.5 pounds respectively, with 40% of adults considered obese. Even a 10 percent reduction in body weight would allow a person to stay within a healthy range while maintaining their existing diet. Although results are preliminary, researchers believe that this work could lead to a successful human treatment that would reduce heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and other obesity-related diseases.

In order to achieve this astonishing impact on weight loss, the researchers used a gene-silencing therapy for a fatty acid metabolism gene called Fabp4. With the expression of this gene effectively “turned off,” the mice stored less fat and had minimal toxicity to their cells. The mice also showed lower indications of type-2 diabetes, including lower glucose levels and less inflammation, compared to mice that did not undergo the gene therapy.

Further research is necessary as the study was conducted with only five mice in each of the experimental and control groups. Unfortunately, human trials are likely several years away. Until your skinny genes arrive, you may want to stick with foods that have previously been shown to help reduce obesity such as green tea and nuts.

The study is published in the scientific journal Genome Research.

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