Tumor-suppressing genes could play an important role in obesity, diabetes, and cancer

Dec. 19, 2013

The function of two tumor-suppressing genes may play a vital role in helping to control obesity and other diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, according to researchers at Temple University’s Sbarro Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Medicine. The researchers published their findings online in the journal Cell Cycle.

“We found that two genes of the retinoblastoma family, Rb1 and Rb2/p130, are key proteins in regulating the formation and function of fat tissue in the body,” says Antonio Giordano, one of the paper’s lead authors. “If these proteins are not functioning properly, they are unable to control the formation of fat tissue in the body, so you have a continuous formation of fat tissue.”

“Fat tissue plays an important function by producing molecules that assist bone marrow to function, grow, and produce all three blood cell types: red, white and platelets,” adds co-author Umberto Galderisi. “But if Rb1 and/or Rb2/p130 are damaged, they can deregulate the fat tissue and cause an overproduction, which can alter the bone marrow’s ability to produce those necessary blood cells.”

The researchers suggest that in addition to altering the bone marrow’s ability to assist in the production of blood cells, the overproduction of fat tissue can lead to obesity, which has been linked to several diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and in older people, anemia. Understanding this mechanism for regulating the activity and the life of bone-marrow fat cells could pave the way for the development of therapies that might restore the proper function of fat cells. Read the article abstract.