Genetically engineered mice, created at the University of Michigan Medical School, are living every dieter’s dream. They eat unlimited amounts of high-fat mouse chow, but have about 50 percent less body fat than normal mice on a low-fat diet. And they show no signs of diabetes or other metabolic disorders, which are common in animals with too little fat.
But don’t stock up on potato chips and ice cream just yet. The genetically altered mice are leaner than normal mice, but they also have some less-than-desirable characteristics – such as underdeveloped mammary glands, an inability to generate body heat and skin that’s twice as thick as normal.
All these changes appear to be caused by a protein called Wnt10b, which is present in artificially high amounts in fat tissue from the experimental mice. Wnt10b is one of a family of 19 related proteins. Wnts (pronounced “wints”) regulate the complex changes that take place as an embryo grows. Part of this process is the development of fatty adipose tissue, which contains fat cells called adipocytes.
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