CRISPR weight loss: A genetic cure for obesity

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CRISPR weight loss: A genetic cure for obesity

CRISPR weight loss: A genetic cure for obesity

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CRISPR weight-loss innovations promise significant weight loss for obese patients by editing the genes in their fat cells.
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    • Author name
      Quantumrun Foresight
    • March 22, 2022

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    White fat cells are commonly known as "bad" fat cells because they store energy in areas like the abdomen. In proposed CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) -based weight loss treatments, these cells are extracted and edited using a specialized technique based on CRISPR technology that transforms these cells into brown or good fat cells, helping patients lose weight. 

    CRISPR weight loss context 

    Researchers from the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, among others, released proof-of-concept work in 2020 that might help make CRISPR-based weight loss therapies a reality. During ongoing experiments, a CRISPR-based therapy was used to alter human white fat cells to behave more like brown fat cells. While this intervention may not lead to significant variations in body weight, there are significant changes in glucose homeostasis, ranging from 5 to 10 percent, which is critical for the management of diabetes. As a result, the focus of obesity research is gradually turning to cell and gene therapies.

    Researchers from the University of California used CRISPR to boost the satiety elevating genes SIM1 and MC4R in obese mice models. At Hanyang University in Seoul, researchers inhibited the obesity-inducing gene FABP4 in white adipose tissue using a CRISPR interference method, leading to mice losing 20 percent of their original weight. In addition, according to researchers at Harvard, HUMBLE (human brown fat-like) cells may activate existing brown adipose tissue in the body by increasing levels of the chemical nitric oxide, which can regulate energy metabolism and body composition. These findings prove the feasibility of utilizing CRISPR-Cas9 to induce brown fat-like characteristics in a patient's white fat mass.

    Disruptive impact

    These CRISPR-based obesity therapies have not yet progressed to human trials as of 2021. However, continued experimentation in mice has revealed encouraging results. And Quantumrun analysts forecast that safe human therapies will become accessible by the mid-2030s, making this innovation yet another option for people who struggle to lose weight with diet and exercise alone. Unfortunately, the early cost of these CRISPR-based obesity therapies may be prohibitively expensive, meaning its application will be reserved for individuals in severe and rapid need of weight-loss interventions

    The successful implementation of CRISPR will likely increase interest in similar research, increasing funding opportunities for scientists.

    Implications of CRISPR weight loss therapies

    Implications of CRISPR weight loss therapies may include:

    • Helping to reduce the annual number of global deaths associated with medical complications due to obesity. 
    • Increasing investment in additional CRISPR-based research initiatives that may produce a range of innovations to enhance human health, from anti-aging to cancer treatment. 
    • Supporting the growth of cosmetic clinics by providing them with an avenue to begin providing genetic-based beauty interventions, in addition to their standard surgery and injection offerings.

    Questions to comment on

    • Do you support the idea of medically enhanced fat loss?
    • Do you believe this CRISPR weight-loss therapy will be a commercially viable option within the competitive weight loss market?

    Insight references

    The following popular and institutional links were referenced for this insight: