Scientists Say Common Virus Could Cause Obesity
Scientists at the 234th national meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston, Massachusetts this week presented the results of a study that suggests a common virus could be partly responsible for the obesity epidemic that is sweeping across America and other nations. They hope their findings will develop antiviral medication to treat "viral obesity".
In this latest study, researchers used lab experiments to show that infection with a common virus that causes respiratory and eye infections in humans, called human adenovirus-36 (Ad-36) turns adult stem cells retrieved from fat tissue into fat cells. But stem cells that were not exposed to Ad-36 did not turn into fat cells.
The scientists have also discovered that a specific gene in the virus causes the transformation from stem cells into fat cells.
"We're not saying that a virus is the only cause of obesity, but this study provides stronger evidence that some obesity cases may involve viral infections."
The research team has also identified a gene in the Ad-36 virus, called E4Orfl, that seems to play a key role in switching on the fat accumulation process in infected animals. The gene could be a target for a range of human therapies, including vaccines and anti-virals, to treat obesity, said Pasarica.
Pasarica said a lot more studies were needed, especially in humans. The team is carrying out further investigations into the factors that trigger obesity in some people with the virus while other infected people don't become obese.
Bonus: Xiao Pang