CNIO scientists discover in studies with mice that an anti-cancer gene also fights obesity

Posted: March 6, 2012 at 7:42 pm

Public release date: 6-Mar-2012 [ | E-mail | Share ]

Contact: Juan J. Gmez Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Oncologicas (CNIO)

This result, obtained after five years' research, is published in leading journal Cell Metabolism. The authors, led by Manuel Serrano (CNIO), believe it will open the door to new therapeutic options not only against cancer, but against obesity and even the ageing process.

The team has also demonstrated that a synthetic compound developed in-house produces the same anti-obesity benefits in animals as the study gene.

Their findings add new weight to a hypothesis that is gaining currency among researchers in the field; namely that cancer and ageing, and now obesity too, are all manifestations of the same global process that unfolds in the body as its tissues accumulate more damage than natural repair mechanisms are able to cope with.

Prominent among these natural repair mechanisms are a small set of genes noted primarily for their protective effect against cancer. In recent years, some of these genes have also been shown to promote longevity again by researchers from the CNIO and to play a significant role in other high-incidence conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

The Serrano team set out to test whether the Pten gene, one of the four most potent anti-cancer genes, could be linked to other beneficial effects, particularly longevity.

And it turns out the answer is yes. The CNIO researchers created transgenic mice with double the standard levels of the Pten protein. The animals, as anticipated, proved far more resistant to cancer than their non-transgenic fellows. But they also lived an average of 12% longer.

This effect is independent of cancer resistance. It is not that the mice die of cancer later than otherwise, but that those that never develop cancer also live longer and exhibit fewer ageing-related symptoms. As the researchers put it, "Pten has a direct impact on length of life."

A "real surprise"

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CNIO scientists discover in studies with mice that an anti-cancer gene also fights obesity

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