The gene PTEN is a tumor suppressor, making it one of the best genes to have in the fight against cancer. But the latest research suggests that preventing cancer is just the beginning of all the amazing things this gene can do.
The mice with the extra PTEN had a metabolic imbalance, although it's the type of imbalance that people in the midst of an obesity epidemic would be all too happy to have. The experimental mice ate more and yet remained thinner than the control group. The researchers also report that the mice were less likely to be insulin-resistant and their livers had less fat in them than those of other mice. Basically, the mice were leaner and healthier, even though they were eating more.
The researchers believe the source of this extra protection is found in the brown fat cells, which had become overactive and were burning tons of extra calories. It seems the extra dosage of PTEN both increased the brown fat cell activity and made it easier for those cells to form. According to research leader Manuel Serrano, "This tumor suppressor protects against metabolic damage associated with aging by turning on brown fat."
We're probably several years away from knowing what benefits this finding might have for people, but the early results are encouraging. The researchers have identified a compound inhibitor that can mimic the effects of the extra PTEN gene, meaning it could be possible to enjoy all these benefits without rewriting your DNA. If that's the case, then this finding could provide the road to a drug that lets you enjoy your body's natural protections against cancer, obesity, and cardiovascular problems throughout our entire lives — not just when you're young.
Via Daniel House