Christian Brothers High School


            In recent years, biotechnologists have paid special attention to obesity and the reasons behind it.  In an attempt to help cure obesity, biotechnologists have been working to understand what factors specifically contribute to obesity. Factors such as genetics, hormones, psyche, and social have been investigated and biotechnologists are trying to deduce a plausible solution to help obese individuals. 

            Biotechnologist, Jeffery M. Friedman, while researching in his lab in New York, has discovered a mutation in hormones that causes a lack of a hormone called leptin in the body.  Leptin is an encoding hormone that tells the brain to stop eating and without it, individuals will eat to an unhealthy extent.  Leptin can also help individuals who are trying to recover from diabetes.  In his lab, Dr. Friedman has experimented on obese mice and discovered that when injected with leptin the mice lose weight rapidly.  Friedman has extended this research to humans on a Pacific island, Kosrae, where he used to same techniques that he used on the obese mice.  Friedman is also exploring the differences in DNA and weight among the islanders.

            Biotechnologists have developed a drug called CB-1 (cannabinoid-1) that has been developed to block cannabinoid receptors and people who took the drug lost more weight than those who did not. This drug became available in 2006.  Another drug in the testing stage is ciliari neurotropic factor which is a genetically engineered protein that is created with the use of restriction enzymes that blocks hunger signals to the hypothalamus in the brain.

The factors that drive technological innovation are people.  A majority of people do not want to be obese and would like to see a better future for them and their children. 

            Biotechnologists believe that there are 100 or more genes that control obesity in the body.  Each gene interacts with different body chemicals  in many ways and the only way to discover the mechanism is to get rid of one gene at a time and observe the results.  A Canadian researcher took one of these genes, PTP-1B, out of a mouse and it resisted weight gain when fed a high calorie and fat diet.  

One out of every three adult Americans is considered obese and one out of every seven adolescents is overweight.  Biotechnologists recognize this as a danger to people‚Äôs lives and will continue to make scientific advancements toward helping to cure obesity.

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