AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: fat

Marathon Mice – How an Exercise Mimicking Drug is Helping Mice Lose Weight

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Our little furry friends are well known for their appetite for cheese and delectable crumbs, so it’s entirely understandable if they put on a couple of extra pounds. But modern medicine may have just found a safe and reliable remedy to their gluttony. In a study conducted by a University of Florida professor of pharmacy, a new wonder drug has allowed mice to get into marathon shape without them even “lifting a paw.” SLU-PP-332 belongs to a class of drugs known as “exercise mimetics” – pharmaceuticals that allow the body to reap the benefits of working out while simultaneously circumventing any physical exertion.

The study found that mice that received the drug experienced a sharp drop in body fat percentage without a change in appetite. By boosting and catalyzing the body’s existing metabolism of fat, the drug is able to burn fat that would usually require endurance exercise or prolonged aerobic threshold exertion. Thomas Burris, the lead researcher, summarized its metabolic effects, saying, “This compound is basically telling skeletal muscle to make the same changes you see during endurance training.”

So why is body fat so stubborn to metabolize in the first place? The answer lies in its chemical structure. Lipids, unlike their carbohydrate cousins, are particularly difficult to break down. Take the mouse’s coveted Swiss cheese as an example: it’s a saturated fat that, although delicious, is unhealthy. It has fatty acid chains with single bonds between its carbon atoms; consequently, the chains pack closely together and layer upon each other. Carbohydrates, on the other hand, are the body’s quick and accessible source of energy. It’s going to choose the easier task and consume carbs in the bloodstream over stored fat. Hydrolysis, which occurs extensively in the digestive system, facilitates the breaking apart of carbohydrate polymers. It’s a primary and preferred means of sourcing energy via glucose, ribose, or fructose that doesn’t require the extra thirty minutes of jogging to tap into fat reserves.

I think exercise mimetics could be useful for athletes who are sidelined by medical treatment for an extended period of time, but I find its commercial application for dietary convenience troubling. I think it could become a cheap way to circumvent the discipline and timely cost of serious physical exercise. What do you think: will these mimetics compromise the integrity of exercise? Maybe one day humans will be able to maintain an elite physique while sustaining a diet of cheese and crackers, but for now, bike, run, swim, dance, lift, push, and use the human body to the fullest of its wondrous capabilities!

Can we fix the expensive problem of obesity??

Today, America faces what can be considered an “obesity epidemic”. An estimated 69 million americans are considered obese, and obesity is the #2 cause of preventable death in America. Obesity can lead to a number of dangerous conditions and even life threatening conditions. Consequences of obesity include coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, different types of cancers, stroke, live disease, sleep apnea, arthritis and more! In addition to health consequences, the epidemic of obesity in america also includes severe economic consequences.  In 2002, the estimated health care expenditure for obesity-related issues was $147 billion

taken from WikiMedia



The statistics concerning obesity, childhood obesity, money lost due to obesity etc. are shocking. America is deeply affected by a preventable issue affecting roughly 35% of adult americans and 20% of youth americans. Scientists and doctors have long explored ways to address this issue medically. Until recently, it was believed that the part of the brain controlling appetite is fully developed before birth, and therefore, cannot be altered. As genetics play a big role in weight and appetite control, the ability to alter the appetite control center (the hypothalamus) would be a huge step in “curing” obesity.

However, “research published in theJournal of Neuroscience has identified a population of stem cells capable of generating new appetite-regulating neurons in the brains of young and adult rodents”. This information suggests that altering the appetite regulation system in humans is a possibility.

There is now hope that “the neural circuitry that controls appetite is not fixed in number and could possibly be manipulated numerically to tackle eating disorders.

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The New Way to Diet

The New Way to Diet 

Today, obesity is a global epidemic effecting millions if not billions of people world wide. Whether it be a few pounds or even a couple hundred pounds, there are countless people out there looking for a way to drop excess weight. Some they try dieting and altering what they eat and others revert to more serious methods, such as surgery. Recently a new procedure has been created that can help those suffering from obesity. Called  GECA or (gastric artery chemical embolization), this surgery can change the lives of millions of individuals.

* Click on image for link to flickr page

GECA is a surgery much safer than a liposuction that can literally make you less hungry  This relatively simple surgery is carried out by blocking off an artery that leads to the stomach. Doing this cuts off the blood supply to a certain section of the stomach that can produce the hormone called gherlin. This hormone controls our cravings to eat food and the sensation we call ‘hunger.’ Removing this hormone from our bloodstream would take away the desire to constantly eat. We would still be hungry, but just for less. With the desire to eat dissipating  one’s intake would go down and, with some exercise, the pounds would drop easily.

What do you think of this new procedure?

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A big hearted snake

Credit: Flickr User Squamata55

For years the scientific community has been fascinated by the phenomena of snakes, such as pythons, eating massive meals at one time and breaking them down slowly over time.  Now thanks to a study by Leslie Leinwand there is an answer to how pythons manage this feat.  After the python eats its organs swell up to two times their size to accommodate this massive amount of digestion.  But what could cause an organ to swell this much?  Leslie and her team have an answer to this as well, fatty acids.  When they drew the snake’s blood after it ate they report that the blood was so filled with fat that it was opaque and it “looked like milk”.  Leslie and her team have not stopped their research here, in fact they learned that when they take three of the fatty acids found in the blood of these pythons and inject them into a living mouse the mouse’s heart will grow just like the pythons did.

This finding lead to another mystery for Leinwand and her team because they are still yet to discover how having large amounts of fat in the blood is harmless to a python while in a human it is incredibly damaging.  In an attempt to get answers Leinwand and her team have injected mice with heart disease with the three fatty acids that lead to heart growth to see if those lipids can have any effects on the condition.  Stay tuned…

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