Science - December 12, 2013

Body has inbuilt fat regulator

Rob Ramaker

Researchers have once again discovered a bit more about the factors determining how much fat we take up from our food.

A team led by Sander Kersten, professor of Molecular Nutrition, discovered that the amount of fat digested and absorbed into the bloodstream is regulated by a protein in the body called Angpt14. In experiments on mice, the animals which lacked this protein stored more fat than normal mice on the same fatty diet. Kersten describes this in the journal Molecular Metabolism.

This discovery reveals something new about how our bodies process food. According to Kersten, the really new idea here is that the digestion of fat is regulated by the body itself.

Testing on humans

Future research should reveal to what extent the findings in mice apply to humans as well. ‘It is always hard to predict that,’ says Kersten. For this experiment he bred mice that could not manufacture the Angpt14 protein. They were then put on a fatty diet. Although they ate no more than normal mice, they gained weight faster, and the amount of fat they stored increased particularly quickly. To test this in humans Kersten would like to find a number of individuals who, due to an error in their DNA, do not manufacture the relevant protein. Kersten: ‘That will only be easy to do once the genetic profiles of very many people have been obtained.’

Kersten happens to have published another study on Angpt14 at the same time. In the kidney disease nephrotic syndrome, this protein appears to be responsible for one of the problematic symptoms: raised concentrations of fat in the blood. Kersten and several American nephrologists outlined this finding in the journal Nature medicine. He is struck himself by how many new facets of this protein are there to be discovered: ‘because we have been working on Angpt14 ever since it was discovered.’