In addition, the study reported identification of a specific gene in the virus that appears to be involved in this obesity-promoting effect. The findings could lead to a vaccine or antiviral medication to help fight viral obesity in the future.
“We’re not saying that a virus is the only cause of obesity, but this study provides stronger evidence that some obesity cases may involve viral infections,” says Magdalena Pasarica, M.D., Ph.D., of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University. “Not all infected people will develop obesity,” she notes. “We would ultimately like to identify the underlying factors that predispose some obese people to develop this virus and eventually find a way to treat it.”
A former study has demonstrated that the Ad-36 virus was capable of causing animals infected with the virus to accumulate fat. A noted epidemiologic study — the first to associate a virus with human obesity — showed 30 percent of obese people were infected with the Ad-36 virus in comparison to 11 percent of lean individuals.
In the current study, Pasarica and her associates obtained adult stem cells from fatty tissue from a broad cross-section of patients who had undergone liposuction. Half of the stem cells were exposed to Ad-36 and the other half were not exposed to the virus. After about a week of growth in tissue culture, most of the virus-infected adult stem cells developed into fat cells, whereas the non-infected stem cells did not, the researchers say.
The exact mechanism by which the virus might cause obesity in people is currently unknown, says Pasarica, who does not rule out the possibility that other human viruses may also contribute to obesity. Researchers also do not know how long the virus remains in the body of obese individuals nor how long its fat-enhancing effect lasts once the virus is gone.
MEDICA.de; Source: American Chemical Society