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Obesity Virus

September 12, 2007

A common virus makes human stem cells accumulate fat in the lab.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
A virus that could make you fat. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Obesity has many causes, but there is growing evidence that common viruses may contribute to the condition in some people. Recently, Nikhil Dhurandhar and his colleagues at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center infected human stem cells with Ad-36, a common virus known to be associated with obesity in humans. They found that the cells they exposed to the virus accumulated a much higher amount of fat than uninfected cells.

NIKHIL DHURANDHAR (Pennington Biomedical Research Center):
Therefore, we conclude that human adenovirus, Ad-36, has the ability to change stem cells into fat-containing cells.

HIRSHON:
The researchers also identified a gene in the Ad-36 virus that they think could be responsible for the effect. Dhurandhar says they hope to target the gene to develop a treatment or vaccine for viral obesity in the future. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.