An engineered version of a naturally occurring protein in the body was found to cause animals to lose weight. It now holds promise as a treatment that can help address the obesity epidemic.

Engineered Version Of Protein GDF 15

In a new study published on Wednesday, Oct. 18, in the journal Science Translational Medicine, researchers looked at the potentials of the engineered version of the protein called GDF 15 in reducing obesity. The protein is produced naturally in the body and plays a role in metabolic processing.

In earlier studies, lean people and animals were found to have more of the protein in their bodies. Other studies also found that injecting GDF15 into animals can lead to weight loss but this is hampered by the body clearing the extra protein quickly. To address this issue, the researchers added a part of an antibody to the protein, so it remains in the body long enough to induce weight reduction when administered once per week.

Researchers said that higher levels of the engineered protein in the body led to weight reduction in test animals, as well as lowered the cholesterol and insulin levels in the blood. The animals were also observed to have increased their interest in less fatty food.

The researchers do not have a clear explanation as to how raising the levels of the protein in the body led to weight loss. Nonetheless, they suspect that this has something to do with the protein interacting with nerve and chemical pathways. The test animals also likely lost weight because the protein made them eat healthier food and eat less.

Potential Obesity Treatment

The findings of the study could pave way for a potential obesity treatment. More tests of the engineered protein, however, are needed to determine if it can be effectively and safely used by humans.

"Our work provides evidence that GDF15 Fc fusion proteins could be potential therapeutic agents for the treatment of obesity and related comorbidities," study researcher Yumei Xiong, from the Department of Cardiometabolic Disorders at Amgen Inc., and colleagues wrote in their study.

Obesity Epidemic And Bariatric Surgery

To date, obese patients are prescribed to undergo bariatric surgery but while this treatment has been shown to effectively spur weight loss, it is invasive, expensive and irreversible.

Figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that more than a third, or 36.5 percent, of adults in the United States are obese.

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