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A drug to prevent obesity?

A new study out from the University of California, San Diego reports that in the future, it may be possible to develop drugs that prevent obesity. These drugs would increase a person's cellular respiration, which results in increased metabolism and more kilojoules burned.

In the study, researchers silenced a gene in mice that is responsible for managing low oxygen levels. Mice without this gene all began to hyperventilate, taking in 20 to 40 percent more oxygen than normal, their heart rates increased, and they drank more liquids than mice with the gene. No matter how much they ate, they all stayed thin and healthy.

The researchers found that when the gene was silenced, oxidation and metabolism of carbohydrates and fats was increased. They do not yet have an explanation for these changes. However, the increased breakdown of fats and carbohydrates facilitated their use in the bodily functions of the mice, and prevented weight gain. It also prevented the development of obesity-related conditions such as diabetes or fatty liver disease.

The next step, the researchers say, is to develop a drug that suppresses this gene, in order to increase the metabolism of cells, whether or not the subject is sedentary. The researchers caution that much further research will be needed in mice before these results can be extrapolated to and tested on humans.

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