Austrian and German researchers have found the enzyme HO-1 to be a key factor in determining the degree of sickness that results from obesity, APA reported Thursday.
In a collaboration between scientists from the Medical University of Vienna, Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics, and the Paracelsus Medical University, it was found that obese individuals with lower levels of the enzyme showed less tendency toward sicknesses typically related to obesity such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The initial research was carried out on mice, where it was found that if the enzyme was reduced in various key organs, the mice still gained weight but did not develop related complications such as fatty liver or liver damage, and cells did not develop resistance to insulin as they would with diabetes type 2.
The predictive power of the enzyme is also independent of body weight, waist circumference, or the amount of fat in the abdomen, something study leader Harald Esterbauer said was a "complete surprise," and meant researchers are now on track to pinpoint a new risk factor for obesity.
It can also now lead to new therapeutic approaches to healthier aging such as through targeted drugs, though the necessary clinical trials yet to be conducted mean this will still be roughly 10 years away, the team said.