Friday, August 15, 2008

Oxford "Obesity-Gene" Group Launches Target For Obesity Researchers

“Oxford University's technology transfer company, Isis Innovation, has launched range of new assays for obesity research - tools that can be used to identify potential drug candidates. A team led by Oxford's Prof Chris Schofield has developed the assays. They are based on the group's pioneering work which identified a gene and an enzyme strongly implicated in obesity. ‘The FTO gene was the first gene to be identified which is both common, and a strong factor in increased weight,’ said Prof Schofield. ‘The fact that we've been able to show that FTO is an enzyme, and have developed assays which will tell us if a drug candidate is targeting that enzyme, opens up the potential of FTO as a 'druggable target', and - we hope - ultimately to a new method for treating obesity.’ Previously, researchers had determined that people with two copies of the "fat" FTO gene have a 70 per cent higher risk of obesity than those with none, and weigh 3 kilograms (6.5lb) more. People carrying one copy of the FTO gene had a 30 per cent higher risk of being obese compared to a person with no copies of the gene. The FTO protein belongs to a family of enzymes known as 'oxygenases', which are involved in cellular processes including DNA repair, fatty acid metabolism and post-translational modifications. Prof Schofield said that the assays could be used by pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies interested in altering FTO activity in a new approach to controlling obesity.”

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