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Anti-inflammatory protein treats obesity by promoting healthy gut bacteria

Scientists from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine have found the the anti-inflammatory protein NLRP12 protects mice from obesity when they are fed high-fat diets. It also promotes insulin resistance. Researchers noted that obese persons have lower amounts of this protein in their guts, and this discovery could open the door to new therapies for obesity and diabetes. The study was published in Cell Host & Microbe.

The Inflammation Factor

“Obesity is influenced by inflammation, not just by overeating and lack of exercise, and this study suggests that reducing inflammation promotes ‘good’ bacteria that can help maintain a healthy weight,” said study senior author Jenny P-Y Ting, PhD, a William R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Profess

or of Genetics. “In mice, we showed that NLRP12 reduces inflammation in the gut and in adipose fat tissues. Although a direct causal effect is difficult to show in humans, our collaborators did help us show there are reduced expression levels of NLRP12 in individuals who are considered obese.”

In humans, the protein is created by several types of immune cells to stop excessive inflammation in the gut. Those lacking the protein are susceptible not only to serious gut inflammation, but colon inflammation and colon cancer.

Less Weight Gained

Mice without the protein had more inflammation in the gut as well as more fat deposits.

“We noticed that the mice treated with antibiotics [proteins] gained less weight than the mice that stayed in the old facility,” said study co-first author Agnieszka Truax, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher in the Ting lab during the study. “That led us to suspect that gut bacteria were involved in promoting obesity.”

While further testing is necessary, these findings could help those genetically predisposed to obesity.
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