Biosingularity

Gene therapy shows early promise for treating obesity

Posted on: March 10, 2009

With obesity reaching epidemic levels, researchers at the Ohio State University Medical Center are studying a potentially long-term treatment that involves injecting a gene directly into one of the critical feeding and weight control centers of the brain.

“Obesity significantly increases the risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke and some cancers,” says Dr. Matthew During, senior author and professor in Ohio State Medical Center’s department of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics. “Our findings represent a promising new treatment for obesity that could ultimately provide a much safer and more effective approach than some conventional therapies.”

Scientists have discovered that a particular gene, BDNF, can result in improved insulin sensitivity, reduced fat mass and weight loss when active in the hypothalamus. The findings are published online in the journal Nature Medicine.

According to first author Lei Cao, assistant professor in the department of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics, the study involved injecting the BDNF gene in normal mice, diabetic mice and mice fed with a high fat diet, to determine how the gene transfer would affect their weight. “The gene was active in the overweight mice, but as they lost weight the gene expression was essentially ‘dialed down,’ using a novel RNA interference approach, thus stopping the weight from continuing to decrease and allowing a stable target weight to be reached,” she says.

During indicated that with the initial results showing great promise, the next step is to obtain the necessary FDA approvals to begin studying the therapy in humans at OSU Medical Center and other centers around the country.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of U.S. adults, or 72 million people, and 16 percent of U.S. children are obese. Since 1980, obesity rates for adults have doubled and rates for children have tripled.

Approximately 24 million U.S. children and adults, nearly eight percent of the population, have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. An estimated 18 million people have been diagnosed with the disease, but nearly six million people are unaware that they have diabetes.

Ohio State University Medical Center

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4 Responses to "Gene therapy shows early promise for treating obesity"

It sounds like the account is wrong, and they are injecting siRNA against a gene, not the gene itself.

[…] Magic pills (from the beginning) – a life on pills, multivitamin doubts (also here), from the Sports Illustrated archives, docs in the dark, gene therapy for obesity. […]

Obesity has been defined as when excess body fat accumulates in one to where their physical overgrowth makes the person unhealthy to varying degrees. Obesity is different than being overweight, as others determine obesity to be of a more serious concern. While obesity is not a disease, it is a serious health risk for one who has this risk.
As measured by one’s body mass index (BMI), one’s BMI of 25 to 30 kg/m is considered overweight. If their BMI is 30 to 35 kg/m, they are class I obese, 35 to 40 BMI would be class II obese, and any BMI above 40 is class III obesity.
Presently, with obesity affecting children progressively more, the issue of obesity has become a serious public health concern. In the United States, greater than one third of all citizens are obese, and this number continues to progress.
Approximately half of all children under the age of 12 are either obese are overweight. About twenty percent of children ages 2 to 5 years old are either obese are overweight. The consequences of these stats on our children are very concerning, considering the health issues they may or likely experience as they get older.
Worldwide, nearly one and a half billion people are either obese or overweight. In the United States, about one third of adults are either obese or overweight.
Women of low socioeconomic status are likely to be twice as obese compared with those who are not at this status. It is now predicted that, for the first time in about 150 years, our life expectancy is suppose to decline because primarily of this obesity problem.
Morbid obesity is defined as one who has a body mass index of 30 kg/m or greater, and this surgery, along with the three other types of surgery for morbid obesity, should be considered a last resort after all other methods to reduce the patient’s weight have chronically failed.
Morbid obesity greatly affects the health of the patient in a very negative way. It has about 10 co-morbidities that can develop if the situation is not corrected. Some if not most of these co-morbidities are life-threatening.
One solution beneficial in many cases of morbid obesity if one’s obesity is not eventually controlled or corrected is what is known as gastric bypass surgery. This is a type of bariatric surgery that essentially reduces the volume of the human stomach in order to correct and treat morbid obesity by surgical re-construction of the stomach and small intestine.
Patients for such surgeries are those with a BMI of greater than 40, or a BMI greater than 35 if the patient has co-morbidities aside from obesity. This surgery should be considered for the severely obese when other treatment options have failed. The standard of care illustrating as to whether this surgery is reasonable and necessary should be clarified.
There are three surgical variations of gastric bypass surgery, and one is chosen by the surgeon based on their experience and success from the variation they will utilize. Generally, these surgeries are procedures related to gastric restrictive operations or mal-absorptive operations.
Over 200,000 gastric bypass surgeries are performed each year, and this surgery being performed continues to progress as a suitable option for the morbidly obese. There is evidence that this surgery is particularly beneficial for those obese patients that have non-insulin dependent Diabetes Mellitus as well.
It is believed that the results of this surgery to correct morbid obesity greatly limits or prevents such co-morbidities associated with those who are obese. Yet about two percent of those who undergo this surgery die as a result from about a half a dozen complications that could occur. However, the surgery reduces the overall mortality of the patient by 40 percent or so, yet this percentage is debatable due to conflicting clinical studies at times.
Age of the patient should be taken into consideration, as to whether or not the risks of this surgery outweigh any potential benefits for the patient who may have existing co-morbidities that have already caused physiological damage to the patient. Also what should be determined by the surgeon is the amount of safety, effectiveness, and rationale for a particular patient regarding those patients who are elderly, for example.
Many feel bariatric surgery such as this should be considered as a last resort when exercise and diet have failed for a great length of time.
If a person or a doctor is considering this type of surgery, there is a website dedicated to bariatric surgery, which is: http://www.asmbs.org,

Dan Abshear

Hi,

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Lindsay Ferrigno

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