Protein could lead to anti-obesity drug
A NEW research trial at Aston University in Birmingham could eventually lead to the development of an anti-obesity drug.
Professor Mike Tisdale and his colleagues are examining the possible role of a protein known as ZAG (zinc alpha 2 glyco-protein), which appears to promote weight loss without an obese person having to reduce the amount of food that they eat. This is because the protein specifically affects fat breakdown and use while not affecting muscle mass.
ZAG is a soluble protein that is present in most body fluids and is produced by normal tissues in the body, but it is also a significant factor involved in a process called cachexia which occurs in the development of some cancers (cachexia is the scientific name for the weight loss that occurs in some cancer patients). In cachexia ZAG production is increased 10-fold due to production by the tumour and the increased ZAG causes mobilization of fat from adipose tissue, and this is used to produce heat rather than energy. Cancer patients can lose up to 85% of their body fat through this process. Normally fat mobilization is linked to energy demand so anything disrupting this process will lead to progressive loss of fat. Prof Tisdale has conducted extensive research into the cachexia process, and his work on the ZAG protein for obesity is a direct result of this cancer research work.
Another possible use of the ZAG protein may be for the treatment of diabetes. Because ZAG lowers blood sugar levels, it opens up the possibility of the protein being used for the future treatment of adult onset diabetes.
Prof Tisdale explained: 'We are a little way off a clinical trial now and our long-term plan is to develop a suitable delivery method, perhaps a tablet, that will enable us to turn the ZAG protein into a commercial treatment for obesity.'
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