Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Problem of Weight Control

It has been an oft-stated observation that obesity has become a major public health issue in the United States.  It is widely accepted that the reasons for this problem are multi-faceted, but a high fat diet together with insufficient exercise probably contributes significantly to this issue.  Since this problem has reached national attention, there are increased efforts on the part of scientists to more fully understand the biological processes that underlie weight control.

Ghrelin is a peptide – a peptide is a small protein – hormone found in the stomach that is known to stimulate weight gain in vertebrates.  Furthermore, it has been established that an enzyme, ghrelin-O-acyltransferase (GOAT) is necessary to activate ghrelin.  Doctor Brad P. Barnett and his colleagues from the Department of Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland have studied the process of ghrelin-mediated weight control in considerable detail using the mouse animal model.

Doctor Barnett and his team have successfully synthesized a peptide, GO-CoA-Tat, that is similar in structure to ghrelin and binds to GOAT; the result of this binding is the inhibition of the activity of the enzyme GOAT.  When mice were treated with this synthetic peptide, they became more tolerant of glucose and weight gain actually diminished.

This is an important finding for a number of reasons.  It helps elucidate the metabolic processes involved in weight control, and this approach may prove to be of therapeutic value, especially to those individuals whose obesity is difficult to treat by any other means.

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