Researchers search for key to weight gain

Vance Matthews with research assistants Holly Allen and Leah Stone.
Vance Matthews with research assistants Holly Allen and Leah Stone.

Mr Matthews, a scientist from the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, was recently awarded a $75,000 grant from the Diabetes Research Foundation of WA (DRFWA) to investigate the protein known as TNFSF14.

He has collaborated with leading scientists from across the country to assist with research, which has revealed that increased levels of TNFSF14, which naturally occurs in the body, can reduce obesity.

‘Type 2 diabetes is predominantly associated with obesity,’ he said.

‘TNFSF14 appears to work in a compensatory manner to reduce diet-induced obesity and type 2 diabetes by helping to limit weight gain, insulin resistance and glucose intolerance.’

A new phase of investigation aims to lift the lid on how the protein does this, which could pave the way for the creation of new treatments to prevent the rising rate of diabesity (form of diabetes associated with being obese) worldwide, Mr Matthews said.

‘We’re aiming to determine whether giving low levels of this protein could help people with major lifestyle-related health issues, as none of the commonly used anti-obesity drugs has resulted in consistent and effective weight loss.

Mr Matthews is now at the clinical stage of experimentation with the protein TNFSF14 and although he is excited about its potential, there are several stages it has to go through before it can become a treatment option.

Study volunteers from WA will also assist him in a second study, which attempts to find out if levels of TNFSF14 decrease, after weight loss has reversed type 2 diabetes.

– Health statistics reveal that nearly 38 per cent of adults in WA are overweight and one in four are obese, which puts them at major risk of developing type 2 diabetes.