A team of American researchers say they may have found the "skinny" gene after they were able to manipulate obesity among worms and mice.
Published in the Sept. 5 issue of the journal Cell Metabolism by researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, the report looks at the role played by a single gene in fat formation.
Greater activity in the "adipose" gene -- first discovered in fruit flies 50 years ago -- was found to keep fruit flies, worms and mice skinny, regardless of how much they ate.
In genetically engineered mice, researchers found that increased activity in the gene led to leaner, healther mice, even if they ate more than regular mice. Mice with reduced gene activity were fatter, less healthy and had diabetes.
The most promising result, however, seemed to be that different combinations of the gene's variants led to a range of body types.
"This is good news for potential obesity treatments, because it's like a volume control instead of a light switch; it can be turned up or down, not just on or off," Graff said. "Eventually, of course, the idea is to develop drugs to target this system, but that's in the years to come."