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Protein breakdown is compromised in muscle cells from individuals with severe obesity

from Contributed by Lauren M. Sparks, PhD

In a recent study in Obesity, Dr. Jeffrey Brault and Lance Bollinger, PhD, investigated whether the breakdown of proteins in muscle cells from individuals with severe obesity could account (in part) for the compromised metabolism that has been observed in these individuals. Using cells that were grown from muscle tissue of both lean individuals and those with severe obesity, the authors were able to trace proteins in the petri dish as they disappeared (i.e. degraded). The team observed a significantly slower turnover of proteins in a pathway designed to eliminate dysfunctional members of the cell's metabolic machinery from those individuals with severe obesity. Furthermore, muscle cells from individuals with severe obesity also had a lower amount of cells that are engineered to burn more fat (the so-called "type I" fibers).

The authors point to important differences in the management of protein breakdown in the muscle cells of individuals that are lean compared to those with severe obesity, which may explain the disturbances observed in the muscle's ability to burn fat and carbohydrates. The authors also highlight the fact that since these are muscle cells that are removed from the body, the differences are likely due to genetics or epigenetics. It is not clear the precise mechanisms by which protein breakdown and the cell's ability to burn fat and carbohydrates are linked. The authors therefore conclude that more detailed research into this link between protein management and fuel metabolism is warranted, as well as its relationship to the person's genetics and/or epigenetics. more

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