A new study has revealed that a protein in the human body makes people gain weight.
University of Rochester researchers said that a protein, Thy1, has a fundamental role in controlling whether a primitive cell decides to become a fat cell, making Thy1 a possible therapeutic target.
Researchers, who studied mice and human cell lines, confirmed that a loss of Thy1 function promotes more fat cells and mice lacking the Thy1 protein and fed a high-fat diet gained more weight and faster, compared to normal mice in a control group that also ate the same high-fat diet.
In addition, the fatter mice without Thy1 had greater than twice the levels of resistin in their blood, a biomarker for severe obesity and insulin-resistance or diabetes. Experiments using human fatty tissue from the abdomen and eyes showed similar results.
The scientists are continuing to investigate why cells with the potential to turn into fat cells loose the Thy1 protein, and why fat accumulates faster when Thy1 shuts off. It's not clear whether Thy1 levels are different in people at birth, or whether they change with time and exposure to various environmental agents.
The study was published in the FASEB Journal.