Suppose a simple genetic fix could allow us humans to gorge on fatty junk foods and avoid obesity. Something like that has been tried on mice and apparently works according to research reported today(ref). The idea was to introduce a plant-based genetic pathway in mice that increases metabolism of fatty acids and induces resistance to diet-related obesity. Certain plants have a set of enzymes called the ‘glyoxylate shunt’ not present in mammals. A team at UCLA “ — cloned bacteria genes from Escherichia coli that would enable the shunt, then introduced the cloned E. coli genes into the mitochondria of liver cells in mice; mitochondria are where fatty acids are burned in cells.”
“The researchers found the glyoxylate shunt cut the energy-generating pathway of the cell in half, allowing the cell to digest the fatty acid much faster than normal. “Mice expressing the shunt showed resistance to diet-induced obesity on a high-fat diet despite similar food consumption. This was accompanied by a decrease in total fat mass, circulating leptin levels, plasma triglyceride concentration, and a signaling metabolite in liver, malonyl-CoA, that inhibits fatty acid degradation(ref).”
I imagine a similar approach might well work in humans, making us genetically a little more like plants. I anticipate concerns about the practicality, safety and ethical aspects of such genetic modifications of humans, although the fast food people would probably love to see this one happen. And it could be a great approach to solving the current obesity epidemic.