Documenting the Coming Singularity

Monday, June 08, 2009

We need this NOW! - Making Fat Disappear

Technology Review - June 8, 2009, by Courtney Humphries

Engineering mice with a fat-burning strategy from bacteria keeps the animals thin.

Mice that were engineered with a fat-burning pathway borrowed from bacteria (top) remained thin compared with normal mice (bottom) when both were fed a high-fat diet. Credit: Jason Dean, University of California, Los Angeles

Can burning excess fat be as easy as exhaling? That's the finding of a provocative new study by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), who transplanted a fat-burning pathway used by bacteria and plants into mice. The genetic alterations enabled the animals to convert fat into carbon dioxide and remain lean while eating the equivalent of a fast-food diet.

"What I found fascinating is that it shows how you could use synthetic biology for human therapies in a highly novel way,"says James Collins, a synthetic biologist at Boston University.

The feat, detailed in the current issue of Cell Metabolism introduces a new approach to combating the growing obesity problem in humans. Although the proof-of-concept study is far from being tested in humans, it may point to new strategies for borrowing biological functions from bacteria and other species to improve human health.

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