A team of researchers has found that sensor protein could help fight against obesity and diabetes.
In the study, researchers showed a protein called NLRP1 is switched on when increased dietary energy (food) intake triggers the cell to become ‘unstable’. Activating the protein sets off a chain of events that instructs cells to use up their energy or fat stores to prevent excess fat accumulating.
Lead author Seth Masters from Melbourne’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute said NLRP1 was a biological sensor that could hold the key to developing new ways of treating obesity and type 2 diabetes.
NLRP1 is a biological sensor that can respond to and prevent obesity and metabolic syndrome, which are causing a dramatically increasing burden of disease throughout the world, Masters added.
The sensor is activated if it detects that the body’s energy intake is too high. When the sensor is activated, it tells cells to burn fat stores to prevent excess build up of fat. We showed that without NLRP1, fat stores continue to build up, especially with a high-energy diet, leading to obesity.
Masters said NLRP1 was more commonly known for its role in the immune system. “However it is becoming increasingly clear that immune signalling proteins also have an important role in regulating metabolism.”
However the investigators cautioned that the treatment would have to be tightly controlled to avoid potential side-effects,Masters said. “Our research showed that activation of NLRP1 could be exacerbated by some diets, and identified that there is a fine balance between increasing the cell’s fat burning abilities and causing harm.”
The study is published in the journal Cell Metabolism.