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Research By Oklahoma Scientists Could Lead To New Obesity Drug

Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation
Lead researcher Deepa Sathyaseelan (middle), with fellow researchers Gavin Pharoah (left) and Shylesh Bhaskaran (right)

At 32.8 percent, Oklahoma has one of the highest obesity rates in the nation, But, scientists at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation say their work could lead to new treatment options for the disease.



“My aim will be to have something to treat obesity,” said biochemist Deepa Sathyaseelan, the lead researcher on a study in the peer-reviewed journal EMBO Reports. She hopes that developing a drug for obesity will prevent chronic diseases like Type II diabetes.

“Obesity is one of the major reasons for insulin resistance, which is one of the first steps in the development of Type 2 diabetes,” said Sathyaseelan. “Or, in other words, insulin resistance can lead to a Type 2 diabetic condition.”

Sathyaseelan’s research compared normal mice to genetically modified mice missing a protein found in mitochondria, the structures that convert food molecules to energy in animal cells. Each group received a diet high in fat.

“The normal mouse will become obese,” Sathyaseelan said. “However, this particular mouse model, even though they are eating as much food as the control mice, they are not gaining any weight.”

Before the finding can be translated into treatments for humans, more animal studies need to be done.

Sathyaseelan is seeking funding to identify chemical compounds that block the expression of the genes responsible for the protein that had such a tremendous metabolic effect in mice.

Diabetes is a leading cause of death in Oklahoma, where nearly one in four seniors is reportedly diagnosed with the disease each year according, to the state’s health department.

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Caroline produced Capitol Insider and did general assignment reporting from 2018 to 2019. She joined KGOU after a stint at Marfa Public Radio, where she covered a wide range of local and regional issues in far west Texas. Previously, she reported on state politics for KTOO Public Media in Alaska and various outlets in Washington State.
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