Lab Mouse - ©

A Silver Bullet Against Obesity After All?

Doctors and researchers always caution that there are no simple treatments – much less cures – for complex diseases. But a group from the University of Texas is claiming it might have found a ‘Silver Bullet’ against obesity…

Brit Men Fat - © IndependentObesity is a plague running wild among the populations of Europe and
North America. Is it possible that simply regulating absorption
of one one mineral by certain cells could slay the dragon?

When folks from so many different walks of life, so many different demographic backgrounds, and so many different genetic profiles complain of the same disease, one gets a distinct – even creepy – feeling that something must be common to all of them. And that something should point to a cure, or at least a simple, effective treatment.

University researchers and big pharma gurus have for years echoed the ancient cry of wizards, alchemists and physicians throughout the ages, that there’s so such thing as a Silver (or ‘Magic’) Bullet to slay the dragon. Accordingly, they’ve been searching along esoteric, exotic lines for weapons that will work against diseases and conditions such as heart disease, caner and obesity.

And for all those decades, nothing conclusive has popped out as a treatment, let alone a cure.

What they did

The preamble of the study report on a new investigation by a team from Texas U. explains: “Magnesium is the fourth most abundant element in the body after calcium, potassium and sodium, and plays many key roles in good health, including regulating blood sugar and blood pressure and building bones.”

The Texas U. team had an inkling that the answer, at least for obesity, could be as simple as turning off or turning on a tell-tale gene.

They looked at the mineral magnesium, because it regulates energy production in mitochondria, which are the cells’ power plants. It does this by regulating the transport of magnesium into cells.

The team started by running mouse-based trials to see if their theory worked in the real world.

What they found

Researchers found that too much magnesium slows energy production in mitochondria. Deleting MRS2, a gene that promotes magnesium transport into the mitochondria, resulted in more efficient metabolism of sugar and fat in the power plants. The result: skinny, healthy mice.

“It puts the brake on, it just slows down,” said co-lead author Travis R. Madaris, a doctoral student at UT Health San Antonio.

Stage 2: Make the drug

The team then synthesized a small-mollecule drug that does the same thing as deleting gene MRS2. And found that the drug worked just as well (on the mice) as monkeying with the gene – an exercise that might effect other bodily functions.

My take

While the researchers must be chaffing at the bit to get to human trials, they agree, in the conclusion of their report, that more research on the possible complications is needed. They can be forgiven for suspecting that their ‘Silver bullet’ might, under further scrutiny, turn out to be too good to be true.

We’ll definitely follow the development of this new treatment for obesity as it progresses!

~ Maggie J.