Scientists in Texas and Pennsylvania have identified a protein sensor that restricts how much sugar and fat our cells convert into energy during periods of starvation.
It is possible, the scientists say, that the sensor could be fine-tuned to prompt more sugar and fat conversion in people with metabolic conditions such as diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease who need help trimming down and living a healthier lifestyle.
The study was published April 21 in the journal Science Signaling.
Senior author Madesh Muniswamy, Ph.D., from the Long School of Medicine, is an expert in the function and properties of mitochondria. These are the cell structures that convert sugar and fat into chemical energy called ATP.
“We want to offer, in the future, a solution to the metabolic crisis faced by millions of people across the world,” Dr. Muniswamy said. “Millions of people consume too much food, while millions of others are in poverty and subsist on too little food. We are studying what happens at the molecular level in both situations with a goal of developing a drug to intervene.”