A newly discovered enzyme that plays a major role in fat metabolism could be the target for a different kind of weight-loss drug, Austrian researchers at the University of Graz Research Institute of Molecular Pathology report.

Natural Fat Fighter

After studying mice, researchers identified ATGL, one member of a family of enzymes called lipases that metabolize fats.

By blocking the activity of ATGL, more fat would exit the body rather than be stored in the tissue.

"Whether such an inhibition could be beneficial for patients with obesity and type 2 diabetes remains to be determined," says the author of the study, Rudolf Zechner, a scientist at the Institute.

"Right now we are at the stage of optimistic speculations," he says.

Alphabet Soup

Until now, only one other lipase, hormone-sensitive lipase (HSL), discovered a number of years ago, has been known to play a role in human fat metabolism.

A drug called Xenical, which works to block the activity of HSL, is currently marketed for weight reduction.

Blocking the activity of ATGL might be a more effective strategy than blocking HSL because experiments on mice indicate that HSL blockage results in an unwanted accumulation of fats, says Zechner.

"Inhibition of ATGL...might not show this unwanted side effect," he says.

Marketing In Mind

The Austrian researchers are working to get a better understanding of exactly what ATGL does, Zechner says, with a marketable product definitely in mind.

Want to Keep Reading?

Continue reading with a Health Confidential membership.

Sign up now Already have an account? Sign in