Researchers have programmed bacteria to generate a molecule that is metabolised into a hunger-suppressing fat.
The researchers targeted N-acyl-phosphatidylethanolamines (NAPEs), which are produced in the intestine after a meal and are quickly converted into N-acyl-ethanolamines (NAEs), potent appetite-suppressing lipids or fats.
In the experiment, mice were given water containg the bacteria that could generate NAPEs. Compared to mice who received plain water, the mice drinking the NAPE-making bacteria gained 15% less weight over the eight weeks of treatment.
The finding could help with weight-loss solutions for humans, says one of the scientists, Sean Davies, but he warns there is still some work to do.
The team found that mice that lacked the enzyme to make NAEs from NAPEs were not helped by the NAPE-making bacteria, but this could be overcome by giving the mice NAE-making bacteria instead.
“This suggests that it might be best to use NAE-making bacteria in eventual clinical trials,” says Davies. “Especially if the researchers find that some people don’t make very much of the enzyme that converts NAPEs to NAEs. We think that this would work very well in humans.”
Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.