Taiwan introduces 'fat fish' for obesity drug screening
Taipei, Sept. 13 (CNA)
Two Taiwanese researchers studying obesity drugs have been successful in developing a new subject for screening obesity-beating drugs -- a zebrafish with an overactive growth gene that they have dubbed the "fat fish."
The fish's AKT1 gene, which regulates metabolism, cell survival and growth, can be manipulated to make the creature resemble a human with a metabolic disorder, making the transgenic fish a prime subject for testing different compounds to see what can be used to make it lose weight, said Lin D.S., director of Pediatric Genetics at Mackay Memorial Hospital, one of the researchers involved in the study.
Among the top 10 leading causes of death in Taiwan, eight of them are obesity-related afflictions, including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, which makes obesity studies crucial, Lin noted.
Hsiao Chung-der, an assistant professor of Bioscience Technology at Chung Yuan Christian University who also cooperated in the research, said zebrafish with the overactive growth gene grow significantly larger than control fish that are fed the same amount.
The "fat fish" display a significantly lowered ability to adjust their blood sugar levels, have less energy and a lower survival rate than the control fish, all of which are syndromes similar to those of humans suffering from obesity, Hsiao said.
Because zebrafish, which grow from embryo to fish in only a few days, can be grown in large numbers quickly and are easily manipulated genetically to display conditions that resemble human disorders, they are becoming a prime subject for drug screening work, the researchers said.
In addition, an unexpected economic benefit can also come from the transgenic "fat fish" -- oil -- the researchers said.
Because the fish is rich in fat, aquaculturists can raise them and extract the oil to make dietary supplement products, avoiding the heavy metal contamination that is commonly found in oil from deep-sea fish, according to the researchers.
Their study, titled "Introducing Fat Fish for Anti-Obesity Drug Screening," has been published in the Public Library of Science One Journal, as well as in Disease Models & Mechanisms Journal.
(By Lung Rui-yun and Ann Chen)