A naturally-occuring protein thought to cause cancer could help obese people lose their body weight, research suggests.
Tests on dangerously overweight mice found they shed a third of their weight after being engineered to over-express BP3.
Researchers at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center described the effect, which kicked in after just 18 days, as ‘striking’.
BP3 is thought to mimic hormones and is elevated in different cancers, which is why it has been investigated for its role in the disease.
A protein that is thought to be involved in the onset of a range of cancers could help obese people shed a third of their body weight, research suggests (stock)
But the new study shows it also appears to play a role in metabolism, as well as the storage and use of carbohydrates and fats.
The researchers engineered mice with a genetic predisposition to both overeat and over-express a protein known as BP3.
‘We found that eight BP3 treatments over 18 days was enough to reduce the fat in obese mice by over a third,’ said senior author Dr Anton Wellstein.
As well as causing the rodents to lose weight, BP3 also reduced a number of obesity-related disorders in the animals.
These included the high-blood sugar condition hyperglycemia, which is often a sign of both type 1 and 2 diabetes.
BP3 also cured the animals of fatty liver disease, which can lead to serious organ damage.
The Washington DC-based researchers hope the treatment could be used to reverse these obesity-related disorders in humans.
And due to BP3 being a natural protein rather than a man-man drug, scientific testing could begin with minimal animal studies, they claim.
The protein has also demonstrated its safety, with microscopic examinations of the mice showing no side effects in the study.
The research was published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Although unclear, BP3 is thought to promote weight loss by affecting metabolism.
‘We found that BP3 exerts a striking contribution to metabolic control,’ Dr Wellstein said.
When levels of the protein rise, it increases the signalling of several hormone-like substances that affect metabolism.
‘It’s like having a lot more taxis available in New York City to pick up all the people who need a ride,’ Dr Wellstein said.
‘With metabolism revved up, sugar in the blood, and fat processed in the liver are used for energy and is not stored. And warehouses of fat are tapped as well.’
Although the results are exciting, the researchers add further studies are required before BP3 can be used to treat metabolic syndromes.
These syndromes include high blood pressure, excess fat around the waist and elevated cholesterol.
This comes after UCL scientists discovered earlier this week tumours push through blood vessels with 200 times the force of ordinary cells.
This is thought to be due to cancerous cells having more receptors on their surfaces, which allow them to cluster together and act as one strong unit.