‘Cure’ for obesity may soon be on the horizon

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SCIENTISTS believe they are closer to finding a “cure” for obesity after identifying a way of making the body burn more fat.

A switch that causes fat-burning enzymes to work three times as hard has been discovered.

Scientists believe the ability to control this “on/off” switch could have massive implications for curing obesity-related diseases, such as cardiovascular disease or strokes, and even skin problems such as acne.

The discovery of the enzymatic ignition key contradicts previous ideas of how enzymes function.

Professor Dimitrios Stamou, of the University of Copenhagen, who led the study, said: “This was a big surprise to figure out that enzymes operate in this way.

“If many enzymes turn out to be switched on in the same way as the ones we have studied, this opens a door to understanding, and maybe curing, a wide range of diseases.”

He said the results suggested the switch may be a common characteristic of many more enzymes.

Enzymes are minuscule worker-molecules that control a vast variety of functions in cells. Previously, it was thought enzymes worked continuously but at varying levels of efficiency.

The work by the Danish team showed enzymes actually always work at the same efficiency, when they work. The scientists said the enzymes were quite lazy and the fat-burning ones only work 15 per cent of time. By flipping the switch, they increased this to 45 per cent.

Associate Professor Niklos Hatzakis put it like this: “What we’ve achieved, is to make enzymes work longer hours.”

The scientists trapped the enzymes on artificial cell walls and monitored their fat-burning work using a special “fat” that emitted light every time an enzyme took a bite of it.

They described the switch as controlling a “lid over the mouth of the enzyme preventing it from eating fat” and explained that, for an obesity cure, a drug would be used to flip the switch.