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Can Depression, Obesity, and Pain Be Fought By Blocking One Protein?

2 months, 3 weeks ago

1442  0
Posted on Apr 02, 2019, 4 p.m.

New research claims to have found a drug that may be able to tackle depression, obesity, and chronic pain which are three of the most pressing health concerns; this work has been presented at the American Chemical Society Spring National Meeting & Exposition.

Depression is a leading cause of disability around the globe according to W.H.O, with there being over 17 million American adults experiencing at least one episode of major depression in their lives. During 2015-16 almost 40% of American adults were obese, globally nearly 40% are overweight and 13% have obesity. The CDC estimates that nearly 50 million American adults are living with chronic pain which has been linked to depression, anxiety, and opioid addiction.

All of these conditions not only take a toll on the people themselves, but their families, friends and the healthcare system as well. New research suggests that there may be a silver bullet to tackle them all at once coming from the Technical University of Darmstadt claiming to have found this potential silver bullet.

The single protein is called FK506-binding protein 51, researchers suggest that they have developed a compound that can block activity of FKBP51 in mice, and that it relieved chronic pain, improved moods, and decreased diet induced obesity in the animals.

The silver bullet protein FKBP51 was previously suggested to regulate stress and metabolism, to mediate the relationship between diet induced obesity, chronic stress, and stress related psychiatric conditions.

The brain, muscles, fat tissues and other parts of the human body contain FKBP51 which serves many functions including being involved in how the body responds to stress, limiting uptake of sugar, and restricting how much fat is turning into brown fat. Brown fat is the good type that helps to transform nutrients into energy, thus the protein can make us store fat rather than burn it which may lead to obesity.

Targeting the protein has proven to be difficult in the past as it looks similar to FKBP52, however FKBP51 has been observed to be able to change its shape in a way that FKBP52 can’t, which allowed the researchers to develop highly selective inhibitors; and nuclear magnetic resonance techniques were used to discover a binding site in FKBP51 called SAFit2.

SAFit2 testing in mice revealed it helped the animals to cope better in stressful situations by lowering stress hormone levels and promoting stress coping mechanisms. SAFit2 also ameliorated inflammation pain induced disabilities and diet induced obesity, according to the researchers. However, more studies are need before the potential drug can be tested in humans.

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