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“Thinness” gene stimulates fat burning

Thinness-Gen © IMBA/Kulcsar

An international team of researchers with the participation of IMBA - the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences - succeeded in demonstrating that mutations of a certain gene are linked to increased fat burning and glucose tolerance and lead to a genetically determined thin waistline. The scientists reported this in the latest edition of the renowned scientific journal Cell.

Previous studies primarily focused on the gene known to be linked with obesity. Now an international research team led by the Austrian geneticist Josef Penninger managed to identify a "thinness gene." Based on data from the Estonian Biobank and studies on flies and mice, the scientists discovered that mutations of the gene ALK, which is responsible for coding the protein Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase and is linked to enhanced fat burning, improved glucose tolerance and a very thin appearance.

"With our work we were able to prove that ALK is a completely new and significant interface in the brain that controls the metabolising of food and the circulation of energy in the body. A next important step will be to conduct research into how the neurons in the hypothalamus in which ALK is active influence these metabolic controls", states Josef Penninger, IMBA's founding director, who is now director of the Life Sciences Institute of the University of British Columbia. "Inhibiting the gene ALK could potentially be a new therapeutic option in preventing obesity."

Read more here about Austria's renowned research facilities.


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