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A research team at the University of Saskatchewan has made a significant discovery regarding the lipid-lowering effects of a protein called nesfatin-1-like peptide (NLP). This discovery has the potential to lead to new avenues for treating obesity and metabolic disorders in both animals and humans. The researchers found that both nesfatin-1 (NESF-1) and NLP can reduce fat accumulation in human liver cells, indicating promising results for developing therapeutic advancements in the field of endocrinology. These findings were recently published in Nature Communications Biology and involve collaborations between researchers at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine and the College of Medicine at USask.

The lack of new therapies for metabolic diseases, such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (MAFLD), is a growing concern. While a hormone-based drug was approved in the United States in March 2024, there are currently no drugs available in Canada for treating this disease. Treatment plans for metabolic diseases typically focus on diet and exercise changes to help lower body weight and reduce fat accumulation. The discovery of NLP and its lipid-lowering capabilities provides new possibilities for developing targeted therapies for metabolic disorders. However, the researchers acknowledge that more research is needed before these findings can be applied in a clinical setting.

The research team, led by Dr. Suraj Unniappan, has been studying nesfatin-1 and its relatives for several years. They have successfully verified that disrupting the gene responsible for producing NLP in mice leads to changes in genes involved in lipid metabolism. This emphasizes the important role of NLP in metabolic regulation and suggests that targeting this protein could be a potential therapeutic strategy for metabolic disorders. Collaborations with experts in metabolic disease, such as Dr. Scott Widenmaier, have helped to advance this research and explore new treatment options for both animals and humans.

The team plans to further investigate the effects of NLP in more complex animal models, including rodents, cats, and dogs. By expanding their research to different species that also suffer from obesity and metabolic disorders, they hope to gain a better understanding of how NLP can be utilized as a therapeutic tool. The support of funding agencies like the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the USask Centennial Enhancement Chair in Comparative Endocrinology has been crucial in facilitating this research. Overall, the discovery of the lipid-lowering effects of NLP represents a significant step forward in the search for new treatments for obesity and metabolic disorders.

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