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Liver enzyme implicated in diabetes and obesity
A newly discovered regulator of energy metabolism in the liver offers a promising therapeutic target for obesity, diabetes and related diseases.
A team that included researchers from Soochow University in China showed that mice deficient in a cell-membrane-bound enzyme called hepsin had problems with liver function. Sugars and fats were not being processed properly because, without hepsin, downstream signalling pathways were not getting activated.
Consequently, the mice burned through calories and they developed more of the special kind of brown fat that specializes in heat generation rather than energy storage.
Mice lacking hepsin proved resistant to obesity and related metabolic syndromes when fed a high-fat diet or when genetically engineered for susceptibility to those conditions.
The findings highlight the potential of drugs targeted at hepsin to help the more than two billion people around the world living with obesity or diabetes today.
- PNAS 117, 12359–12367 (2020). doi: 10.1073/pnas.1918445117