At normal levels, white fat tissue is known as the body's energy storage unit. When this type of tissue over accumulates, it begins to disrupt several metabolic processes. These processes, which include regulation of blood sugar levels, significantly impact an individual's health. New research has led to the discovery of a molecular mechanism that plays a role in the body's production of this tissue.
The study, published in Genes & Development, focused on the miR-26 family of microRNA's. These include miR-26a-1, miR-26a-2, and miR-26B, which previously were linked to cancer suppression and insulin sensitivity. These molecules of microRNA help to regulate the expression of specific genes, mostly by encoding information for protein production. Researchers wondered if they also play a role in fat cell production.
To understand if the role of the miR-26 family in fat production, researchers used CRISPR technology to remove genes responsible for the encoding of these molecules from mice. Researchers found that mice lacking miR-26, even when fed a normal diet, saw a two-three fold increase in white fat tissue development starting in early adulthood.
Researchers then engineered a separate group of rats to overproduce miR-26 molecules. They then fed the engineered mice, and a group of control mice, a diet high in fat. The regular mice gained weight as expected, while the bioengineered mice experienced little weight gain. The miR-26 over-producing mice also had lower blood sugar and blood lipid levels than did the control group.
These findings indicate that miR-26 molecules are somehow involved in the regulation of that tissue.
An additional finding of the study included the revelation that miR-26 molecules seem to regulate FBXL19, a protein that assists in new fat cell production.
Researchers hope these findings contribute to the development of better therapies for metabolic conditions such as obesity. Such therapies are essential as obesity is a risk factor for a large number of chronic diseases. Of these diseases, is the number one killer of adults throughout the developed world heart disease. Not only is heart disease, a problem for developed countries, but as the world's countries urbanize the trend is expected to worsen.