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Wednesday, 29 November, 2000, 02:40 GMT
'Fat-proof' mouse fights the flab

A mouse that can eat as much as it likes without getting fat could pave the way for future slimming drugs.

The animal lacks a key substance that stops the body's fat stores from being broken down.

Scientists in the United States bred laboratory mice missing the gene that codes for the protein, called perilipin. Even when crossed with mice genetically prone to obesity, the rodents stayed lean on a high-fat diet.

Co-researcher Dr Javier Martinez-Botas, of Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, said: "We cured genetic obesity in mice, even obesity induced by a high-fat diet."

He added: "They have much less fat than normal mice, even when they eat more. They burn more fat and they have a high metabolic weight."

Flab-buster

Perilipin coats the surface of fat storage droplets inside the body's cells to protect them from being broken down by a fat-metabolising substance called hormone-sensitive lipase (HSL).

In perilipin-free mice, HSL broke down the fat as soon as it was made. The researchers believe the discovery could pave the way for future anti-obesity drugs.

If they can find a way to target and knock out the protein in the body's fat stores, they may be able to develop a treatment that will reverse obesity in people.

"In humans, we have the same protein," Dr Martinez-Botas told BBC News Online. "It's a very good target for the development of new anti-obesity treatments in the future."

But he warned that it would take some time to switch research from experiments with mice to overweight humans. The research is reported in the journal Nature Genetics.

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07 Jan 99 | Sci/Tech
Born to be fat
28 Mar 00 | Sci/Tech
Mouse stays thin
26 Jul 00 | Sci/Tech
Skinny mice defy obesity
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