Engineered protein lowers weight in rodents and primates
Researchers from Amgen Inc. have engineered a novel protein that has demonstrated the ability to lower the weight of mice, rats and primates; the subsequent paper has been published in Science Translational Medicine. The authors based their research on the observation that obese mammals have elevated serum concentrations of the protein GDF15, when compared to normal weight controls. GDF15 itself has a short half-life, so the team were keen to not only alter the effects of the protein, but to also make it last longer in the body. A new fusion protein was generated and by modifying the protein the team were able to delay gastric emptying and alter food preferences, thereby reducing body weight.
The team noted that the effects from the altered protein were similar to those that are observed post bariatric surgery in obese patients. It is thought that GDF15 activates a population of nerve cells called AP neurons that make up a portion of the communication between the gut and the brain. However, the team are keen to point out that much more research is needed into the use of the protein before it is considered as a potential therapeutic agent.