Manipulating Heart-specific gene pathway can prevent obesity, diabetes, Heart Diseases

In a recent study, conducted by Researchers from UT Southwestern Medical Center, it has been shown that heart can potentially regulate the balance of energy in the body that may prove very useful for the effective treatment of diseases like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

How the Study was conducted:

The Study was conducted using mice fed a high-fat diet.

Researchers used mice and fed a high-fat diet to them. The researchers found that that manipulating a heart-specific genetic pathway is capable of preventing one from obesity and also protects against the harmful changes in the blood-sugar that are mainly associated to type 2 diabetes.

According to Dr. Eric Olson, chairman of molecular biology at UT Southwestern and senior author of the study,

“Obesity, diabetes, and coronary artery disease are major causes of human death and disability, and they are all connected to metabolism. This is the first demonstration that the heart can regulate systemic metabolism, which we think opens up a whole new area of investigation,”

The genetically altered mice and an experimental drug, used to examine the levels of two regulatory molecules in the heart, shed important light on the role played by a heart-specific genetic pathway in the incidence of the above metabolism diseases.

The scientists found that MED13, an important part of a gene pathway in the heart, is responsible to control whole mechanism of the body while miRNA-208a, a heart-specific microRNA, inhibits the action of MED13. Mice with High levels of MED13, either genetically or increased artificially with the help of drug, are found to be lean and have high consumption of energy.

ON contrary, it was observed that those mice that were genetically engineered to lack MED13 in the heart displayed an increase in the susceptibility to diet-induced obesity. These mice also had an abnormal blood-sugar metabolism and other changes that were similar to those of a group of conditions called metabolic syndrome, which is connected to the development of coronary artery disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

An Important Breakthrough:

Till now, MicroRNAs, which are the small fragments of genetic material and which do not code for the proteins used in body processes as the larger strands of genetic material do, were seen with little interest. However, in the recent years, these molecules have evolved as the key regulators of disease and stress responses in various tissues. Almost 500 microRNAs have been identified.

According to Dr. Olson,

“While studying the effects of that drug, we observed that animals treated with the inhibitor seemed to be resistant to high-fat diets but were otherwise healthy,”

Potential of the Findings:

The present study builds on that actual observation by identifying the role of miR-208a and its target MED13 in regulating systemic metabolism. The future studies will be based on how this heart-specific microRNA communicates with cells throughout the body, said a Researcher.

The details of the findings appeared in the latest issue of Cell.