Turning off a protein found in liver and fat tissues can dramatically improve blood sugar levels and reduce body fat, report researchers.
For a study released in the Journal of Lipid Research, Angel Baldan and colleagues used mice models to examine how lipid metabolization is carried out in liver and fat tissues of mice given antisense oligonucleotides, which function to reduce the expression of fat-specific protein 27, or FSP27.
The Dangers Of Fatty Liver Disease
Fatty liver manifests when a high-triglyceride count is recorded, contributing to metabolic syndrome or a group of factors shown to raise risks of diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems. As the most common cause behind chronic liver disease, it affects 30 percent of the American population, a figure predicted to increase in the coming decades.
Baldan said that obesity and fatty liver disease are connected, and, given they are highly prevalent in children and adults, pose a severe burden to public health. However, there isn't a lot available to address fatty liver patients with beyond surgical procedures, drugs to suppress appetites, and lifestyle modifications.
FSP27 Protein And Liver Lipids
According to Baldan, liver cells in the case of fatty liver disease have numerous lipid droplets, each one containing triglycerides. However, these lipid droplets aren't "naked," coated with the protein FSP27 that not only prevents the mobilization of lipids but also promotes their storage within a cell.
Earlier, Baldan and colleagues published a study showing that normal livers don't have FSP27 present. However, the fat protein quickly increases in number with a high-fat diet or after fasting and has been correlated as well with liver triglyceride accumulation. In fact, the researchers discovered that FSP27 was a necessary component for liver triglycerides to accumulate.
It's not clear why fasting would cause an increase in FSP27 but Baldan explained that the activity causes the release of fat stores so the body can use fat as energy. Then when released fat makes its way to the liver, it causes triglyceride accumulation.
Turning Off FSP27
The researchers turned off FSP27 by administering antisense oligonucleotides to the mouse models and saw a drop in visceral fat, better insulin sensitivity in liver and fat tissues, and improved overall glycemic control. However, even with the liver improving in function, the administration of antisense oligonucelotides did not lead to a reduction in triglyceride accumulation.
Baldan and colleagues are currently working on developing an anti-FSP27 treatment that can also be used to reduce fatty liver. Overall, they believe that turning off the protein will benefit those who are overweight or obese and resistant to insulin, and be effective in cutting back body fat without worsening fatty livers.