Obesity is currently considered a major public health concern and a global epidemic, and has been recently linked to protein MKK6. Findings from recent studies indicate that an estimated 2.1 billion people (who account for 30 percent of the global population) are either overweight or obese. According to the 2017 World Obesity Federation, it is projected that if current trends continue, the number of overweight and obese adults will have increased to 2.7 billion people by the year 2025.
A staggering 177 million of these people will require treatment for severe obesity. The study shows that obesity and overweight have significantly risen over the last four decades; and most children who suffer from obesity in childhood more often than not; grow up and become obese adults.
This is a very worrying trend because obesity poses very many health concerns in both adults and children. This condition is linked to various diseases including: Type 2 Diabetes, High blood pressure, Heart-related conditions, musculoskeletal conditions and up to 13 types of cancers and other co-morbidities.
Many studies and researches are being conducted in a bid to curb this global crisis.
In a recent such study, a team of researchers collected fat tissue samples from patients being treated for obesity at the University Hospital in Salamanca, Spain. After analyzing these tissue samples, the research team headed by Dr.Guadalupe Sabio found that all the samples contained higher than normal levels of a protein MKK6. After an extensive investigation of this protein, they established that the primary function of protein MKK6 was to prevent fat stores (commonly referred to as white fat) from being converted into brown fat. Brown fat is essential in burning lipids in order to sustain body heat or temperature.
In recent years, brown fat has attracted widespread interest among obesity research cycles. The primary function of body fat is regulating body temperature and maintaining optimal energy levels. However, there are two types of fat tissue in the body. These include; White adipose tissue (white fat) which basically stores excess calories and Brown adipose tissue ( brown/”good” fat) which is responsible for burning lipids and energy regulation.
Dr. Sabio also explained that the difference between these two types of fat tissue is that brown fat can be activated by cold to burn lipids and regulate body temperature whereas white adipose tissue cannot.
According to Dr.Sabio, what has generated a lot of attention in brown fat and its clinical potential is another interesting observation. “White adipose tissue can be converted into brown adipose tissue, thus increasing body temperature”, States Dr. Sabio. Activation of white adipose tissue into brown fat could lead to a reduction in body weight.
According to Nuria Matesanz; another member of the research team, findings from the study indicated that people suffering from overweight and obesity lose both the ability to convert white adipose tissue into brown fat as well as the ability to activate the brown fat. Consequently, obese patients cannot lose excess weight this way.
Another study led by Dr. Jose Antonio Enriquez at the CNIC and other research teams from the University of Extremadura and CiMUS was carried out in addition to the research team led by Dr.Sabio.
Protein MKK6 studies
This team of researchers established that the anomaly that makes obese patients unable to activate brown fat and also unable to convert white adipose tissue into brown fat is caused by the increased levels of protein MKK6 in the body. The researchers used mice to effectively demonstrate the impact of MKK6 in conversion of fat tissues in the body.
Observations from this study indicated that the mice which lacked the protein MKK6 were able to convert white fat into brown fat. These mice were able to get rid of excess stored fat by turning it into brown fat and expelling it as heat.
According to the study, the researchers were also able to observe that removing the protein MKK6 from obese mice halted further weight gain in the mice and even led to a reduction in body weight. Findings from this interesting research promote the theory that removing MKK6 could potentially be a beneficial objective in the war against overweight and obesity.