Target Acquired

A New Protein with Promising Effect for Obesity

It’s early days for this new protein, but worth noting, nonetheless. Amgen scientists have successfully demonstrated that they can modify a GDF15 protein to treat obesity in mice, rats, and primates. With animal data published in Science Translational Medicine, they show an impressive effect on body weight in mice and monkeys.

Acting on the Gut and Brain

This modified GDF15 protein delays gastric emptying, alters food preferences, and activates neurons in the area postrema of the brain. In their paper, the researchers commented on parallels with the effects of bariatric surgery:

It is intriguing that GDF15 affected the same observed biological activities as bariatric surgery, and circulating concentrations of GDF15 are further increased in obese patients after bariatric surgery.

Ken Fujioka told the LA Times:

This is a new system. It’s not one we’ve seen before, and that’s a big deal.

The Risky Nature of Early Stage Research

Almost 20 years ago, Amgen licensed the rights to another protein, leptin. With great fanfare, they began clinical trials that soon fizzled into disappointment. That’s the nature of early stage research. When the promise is great, disappointment can be even greater.

But sometimes, deeper insights come from those failures. And those insights become the foundation for a breakthrough. If this new protein can deliver some of the effects of a gastric bypass – without the surgery – that would indeed be a great advance.

Only time, and careful research, will tell.

Click here for the research paper, and here for more from the LA Times.

Target Acquired, photograph © George Grinsted / flickr

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October 23, 2017