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Dr. Bhatnagar and AlsharifDr. Sushant Bhatnagar (left) and Haifa Alsharif (right)Researchers from the UAB Comprehensive Diabetes Center (UCDC) uncovered the role of a little-studied protein in regulating body weight, which may play a critical role in the future for treating and managing Type 2 diabetes.

Recently, scientists have observed increasing energy expenditure as a potentially more effective way to regulate body weight in healthy and Type 2 diabetes patients. One gene–brain angiogenesis inhibitor-3 (BAI3)–that the Sushant Bhatnagar, Ph.D., Lab just characterized in the scientific journal Metabolites appears to be a promising avenue for increasing energy expenditure.

BAI3 causes increases in white adipose tissue depots––potentially facilitating fat storage and obesity. By blocking BAI3, the body utilizes fat, increasing energy expenditure and often burning adipose tissue; as a result, it contributes to reduced body weight.

First author Haifa Alsharif, a Ph.D. student in the Bhatnagar Lab, says that the research gives solid insight into a potential target–BAI3–for improving whole-body energy expenditure and regulating body weight.

“The science is starting to point us toward energy expenditure as the most effective way to maintain or lose weight,” said Alsharif. “Research like ours could eventually be translated to the development of Type 2 diabetes drugs to make them even more effective in the short and long term, and hopefully with less side effect, for patients.”

As ultra-processed and sugary foods continue to gain a foothold in American’s diets around the U.S., scientists and physicians alike are actively looking for ways to combat the effects of an American diet on the body, particularly those with Type 2 diabetes.

The CDC reports that nationally, 63% of adults aged 18 or older reported drinking sugar-sweetened beverages once daily or more. A study published in January 2022 notes that the consumption of ultra-processed foods– including instant and canned soups, French fries, chips, protein bars, and energy drinks–increased among all U.S. adults from 2001-2002 to 2017-2018.

While diet and exercise are always recommended to regulate body weight, many patients are turning to Type 2 diabetes drugs to assist in their weight maintenance or weight loss goals. Research, like this, from the Bhatnagar Lab could eventually improve current drug options for Type 2 diabetes drugs.

Other authors besides Alsharif and Bhatnagar include Mary N Latimar, Ph.D., Katherine C Perez, Justin Alexander, Mostafizur Rahman, Ph.D., Anil K Challa, Jeonga Kim, Ph.D., Sasanka Ramandham, Ph.D., Martin Young, DPhil.