Scientists believe a stomach-specific protein plays a major role in the progression of obesity, according to new research by Indiana University School of Medicine researcher David Boone. The study could advance development of therapeutics that would help individuals struggling with achieving and maintaining weight loss. The researchers focused on Gastrokine-1, a protein produced exclusively and abundantly in the stomach. Previous research has suggested that the protein is resistant to digestion, allowing it to pass into the intestine and interact with microbes in the gut. Researchers show that inhibiting GKN1 produced significant differences in weight and levels of body fat in comparison to when the protein was expressed. Boone says while diet and exercise are critical to maintaining a healthy weight, some individuals struggle with weight loss — even in cases of bariatric surgery, maintaining weight loss can be a challenge. Results from the study, he says, are an example of how a better understanding of the gut microbiome and the physiological aspects of obesity — how our bodies regulate metabolism and accumulate body fat — could help inform new therapies. Data from the Centers for Disease Control show adult obesity rates have increased to 42.4 percent in the United States. In addition to increasing an individual’s risk of stroke, diabetes, certain cancers and other health issues, obesity can also increase the risk of severe illness due to COVID-19. Boone and his team conducted a microbiome analysis of mouse models with and without the Gastrokine-1 protein expressed. They measured food intake, caloric extraction, blood sugar, insulin and triglyceride levels and used magnetic resonance imagining to monitor body composition. The team also calculated energy expenditure and observed inflammation levels. Models without the protein weighed less and had lower levels of total body fat and higher percentages of lean mass — despite consuming the same amount of food. On the other hand, when put on a high-fat diet, models without Gastrokine-1 showed a resistance to weight gain, increased body fat and hepatic inflammation, which can lead to liver disease. While more research is needed to determine the efficacy of blocking the protein to prevent obesity, researchers say if proved as a viable solution, such therapies could reduce the burden on health care systems and help improve quality of life for patients.
In other news, when people with epilepsy are more satisfied with their intimate relationships, they are also more likely to manage their condition better, according to a study from the Kinsey Institute at IU Bloomington and the IU School of Nursing at IUPUI. Data gathered from a survey of 88 people with epilepsy revealed that intimate connections with others are a common concern, and many have difficulties navigating and maintaining relationships. About 4 million, or 1 in every 26 people in the U.S., will be diagnosed with epilepsy in their lifetime, according to the Epilepsy Foundation of America. Each day, people with epilepsy and their families use self-management measures like regularly taking medication or monitoring their stress levels to manage their symptoms. But if a person with epilepsy isn't satisfied with their intimate relationships, it could have a negative impact on the person's self-care. Researcher Wendy Miller says one of the most important factors in predicting outcomes for a patient is self-management. Miller says with greater understanding of the significance of relationship satisfaction in the lives of people with epilepsy, medical professionals can provide better support to patients who may benefit from learning skills to help them maintain healthy connections with partners and strengthen their intimate relationships, thus increasing the chances that they will have better health outcomes. Furthermore, Miller says studies on intimate relationships and the role they play in the lives of people with epilepsy can apply to individuals with other chronic illnesses.