CAMBRIDGE, MA – One of the most frustrating things for someone struggling with their weight can be the sight of someone who can eat fatty high sugar and high carbohydrate snacks all day, not exercise, and yet not put on an ounce of weight. If only medical science could discover a way for everyone’s metabolism to effortlessly and continuously function in high-gear like that.
Well, according to new preliminary research published by Cell, a peer-reviewed scientific journal, scientists may have uncovered a genetic variant of a specific gene in the human body – the “ALK” gene – that promotes slimness, which could potentially lead to a breakthrough in treating the obesity epidemic that is plaguing the nation.
Scientists examined the DNA of over 47,000 healthy individuals in the Northern European country of Estonia between the ages of 20 and 44. People with a Body Mass Index (BMI) below 18 were compared to people with average BMIs and researchers discovered that this genetic variant of the ALK gene correlated with being thin, according to the report. Scientists also conducted research on how the ALK gene functions in flies and mice and have reported positive results supporting their theories.
The ALK gene generates a protein related to cell growth known as anaplastic lymphoma kinase. The research into this genetic variant of the gene suggests that it promotes possessors to burn more fat than average. It has been suggested that ALK inhibitors – already used for cancer treatment – could potentially be used in some manner to help with weight loss.
Mutated forms of the ALK gene have actually been found to encourage some forms of cancer, such as lung cancer, anaplastic large cell lymphoma and neuroblastoma. However, a different mutation – an obviously more benign one – may be able to play a role in treating obesity.
Outside researchers have pointed out that the findings are not definitive but the research has nonetheless revealed some “very interesting” results.