Last week we talked about this new magic protein bullet, growth differentiation factor 15 (GDF15), that causes weight loss when we are stressed, and about the newly discovered receptor in the brain that turns this protein signal into not eating. One of the teams that discovered the brain receptor has gone on to make a modified version of GDF15 that lasts longer in the blood and makes it technically easier to use for weight loss – at least in mice, rats and monkeys so far. (1)
This system seems to be similar to how gastric bypass surgery works and seems to accomplish the same degree of success – more than 20% weight loss as long as the experimental animals keep getting the GDF15 analog – at least in mice, rats and monkeys.
These breakthroughs are under license from Amgen. But remember leptin? Almost 20 years ago, Amgen also licensed the rights to leptin. With leptin clinical trials could not demonstrate big weight loss. This new magic bullet may be better and at least we are learning important stuff. Leptin was a major blockbuster breakthrough that taught us that at least some mice and humans are not obese because of immorality. Maybe this GDF15 thing will unlock the secret of drastic gastric bypass surgery that works so well and allow us to avoid the surgery and get the same benefits.
Maybe we could use the magic of CRISPR that we discussed in a recent past column to deliver the real GDF15. Modifying skin cells with CRISPR to engineer them to make proteins that can be turned on with a simple drug like tetracycline and then transplanting them back has already been demonstrated in mice. (I can’t find that reference right now)
John DiTraglia M.D. is a Pediatrician in Portsmouth. He can be reached by e-mail- firstname.lastname@example.org or phone-354-6605.