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"Fat Rats" -- The Discovery Files


The Discovery Files
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Obesity appears to impair normal muscle function in rats, an observation that could have significant implications for humans, according to Penn State researchers.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

Fat Rate and a Rat's Fate.

I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files -- new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

"Wanted: Obese rats for physiological study -- meals provided." No they didn't take an ad in the rat personals but researchers out of Penn State did manage to find some rotund rodents and some normal ones too -- for a project that looks at the effects of obesity on the musculoskeletal system. Specifically, how well skeletal muscle senses and adjusts to more weight being carried by the body.

The team honed in on a certain gene that codes for a protein essential for muscle function, it's called 'Troponin T.' The study looked for varying levels of expression of the gene as the rats gained weight.

The normal rats were fitted with a weighted vest that made them 30 percent heavier. In those normal rats with the weight suit, expression of the gene shifted accordingly. In obese rats with a similar additional weight increase, the gene did not respond.

The findings show that as obesity develops, skeletal muscles fail to compensate appropriately for the increasing body weight. The result is reduced mobility and muscle growth.

The researchers say more work in this area could lead to new therapeutic approaches. Some new hope, because it looks like this gene has just been 'ratted out.'

"The Discovery Files" covers projects funded by the government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research -- brought to you, by you! Learn more at nsf.gov or on our podcast.

 
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