Researchers from Flinders University, Australia, are studying a gene related to obesity, RCAN1, which may "allow you to eat as much as you want without gaining weight".
The study used a huge genetic screen in rodents to identify obesity-causing genetic candidates. When the gene RCAN1 was removed, the mice could feed on high fat foods for prolonged periods without gaining weight.
According to project leader and professor Damien Keating, blocking RCAN1 helps transform energy-storing white fat into energy-burning brown fat, meaning the body burns calories even while resting and without the need for dietary restrictions or extra exercise.
The international team said new drug therapies could be developed based on the finding. Inhibiting the gene might also translate into combating obesity and serious diseases such as diabetes.
"We are currently testing a series of protein-targeting drugs to see if they inhibit RCAN1 and whether they represent potential new antiobesity drugs," Keating said in a statement received by The Jakarta Post.
Obesity is a major global health epidemic that increases the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Two-thirds of Australian adults and a quarter of children are either overweight or obese, yet left with limited effective therapeutic treatments.
"We have research funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council. We can potentially make a real difference in the fight again obesity," Keating stated.