Using CRISPR to Lose Weight!

Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash

A study titled 'CRISPR-engineered human brown-like adipocytes prevent diet-induced obesity and ameliorate metabolic syndrome in mice' was recently published in Science Translational Medicine. In this study, the researchers found that using CRISPR could help to prevent obesity in mice and may even protect them against diabetes.

In the human body, there are 2 types of fat: white fat and brown fat. These 2 types of fats are similar but have different functions. The white adipose tissue serves to store energy. Whereas, the brown adipose tissue is primarily involved in thermoregulation by burning energy. The Uncoupling Protein 1 (UCP1) protein is involved in thermoregulation and it is mainly found in the brown fat cells. Unfortunately, the fat burning-brown adipose tissue decreases as we get older.

In the study, the researchers used CRISPR activators to upregulate the gene expression of the UCP1 gene in white preadipocytes to form brown-like cells (humble cells). Tseng and colleagues then transplanted either white fat, brown fat, or the humble fat into mice. The mice were also given a diet high in fat so that they could determine the effects on body weight. It was found that the mice transplanted with brown fat or humble fat did not experience as much weight gain as the mice receiving white fat. Furthermore, mice with brown fat or humble fat had better insulin sensitivity compared to mice that had white fat.

'Our data demonstrate the preclinical therapeutic potential of the CRISPR engineered HUMBLE cells in prevention and treatment of obesity. Transplantation of HUMBLE cells highly improved glucose homeostasis in mice, which was mediated, at least in part, by SNOs/nitrite facilitated activation of endogenous murine BAT,' said the researchers of the study.

This research has definitely opened the doors for novel obesity treatments for humans in the future. However, before that can happen, rigorous testing needs to be done on animals and humans to make sure it is a safe and efficient treatment option.

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