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Regeneration of hypothalamic neuro-architecture using liver enzyme gene transfer as an approach to treat post-dieting body weight rebound

Research Grant Recipient: Ping Chen, PhD

Award Value: $250,000

Research Focus: Obesity

Project Summary: The major challenge in treating obesity is not just losing weight, but preventing weight from coming back. This proposal examines a new treatment strategy of using a gene transfer therapy to safely target brain mechanisms that control hunger and energy output. The investigator’s previous research indicates that gene transfer of a well-tolerated liver enzyme could revolutionize clinical treatment of obesity, making it easier for obese patients to lose weight safely and minimize later weight gain.

Year 1 Progress Report:

Currently, Minnesota’s obesity rate is 28.4% among adults and 10.4% among 10-17 years old kids. An increase in statewide as well as worldwide obesity has led to rising needs for health care and a surge in diseases like type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancers. Successful weight loss can widely reduce the risk of such health outcomes. However, the vast majority of obese people who lost weight return to their pre-diet body weight soon after dietary or medicine intervention. During the first year of this awarded project, we have been testing and validating a new strategy using viral vector based gene therapy for body weight management in obesity. We believe that there is a control system built into every person’s brain dictating how much body fat he or she should carry – a kind of thermostat for body fat. Some individuals have a high setting, while others have a low one. Our approach to control obesity is to apply the safe and long-term effective gene transfer approach to lower the set point by reprograming key neuronal circuits that control hunger and fat storage.

Dr. Chen is an Assistant Professor and Research Associate in Molecular Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics at Mayo Clinic. She is a graduate of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and has been at Mayo for five years.

Ping Chen PhD
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