A Novel Method for the Treatment of Obesity
Isis Project No 3593 Isis Innovation, the technology transfer arm of the University of Oxford, releases a new causal-link, with potential in the treatment of obesity. Cysteine levels have been shown to be related to and causal of body fat mass.
Obesity is one of the major health challenges facing the developed world today, with over 1 billion adults overweight and at least 300m clinically obese. In the US alone, over 65% of adults are obese or overweight and approximately 10% of the total healthcare budget is spent on obesity related conditions.
The Oxford Invention
Two large populations have been investigated and a link between cysteine and body fat mass has been found. In one study of 5000 people, plasma cysteine levels and body fat mass were recorded over a 6-year period. It was found that women in the highest cysteine quintile had on average 9 Kg more fat mass than those in the lowest quintile, regardless of their food intake or exercise patterns. In men, fat mass increased by 6 kg from low to high cysteine. No relationship between cysteine and body lean mass was found.
A second study of 1500 people supported the original finding. Inherited genetic variations in cysteine formation in humans and mice support a causal link between cysteine and fat accumulation. Furthermore, when rats were fed a diet that lowers their cysteine levels for 12 weeks, their body weight and fat mass % significantly decreased.
These findings have potential implications for the design of cysteine-controlling therapies for treating obesity, while preserving muscle mass, which usually declines with conventional weight-loss approaches. Cysteine is commonly termed a ‘non-essential’ amino acid and a number of existing materials are known to control cysteine levels.
The Oxford invention is the subject of a patent application. Isis would like to talk to companies interested in developing the commercial opportunity. Please contact the Isis Project Manager.
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