New Breakthrough in Understanding Obesity, Metabolic Syndrome

Dr. Atul Chopra

Dr. Atul Chopra

HOUSTON: The research work of a pioneering medical geneticist has led to the discovery of a new hormone that could combat metabolic diseases like diabetes, metabolic syndrome and obesity. The research was recently heralded in a November 2016 New York Times article entitled “The Thin Gene” by Pagan Kennedy, featuring the work of Dr. Atul Chopra, a medical geneticist at Baylor College of Medicine.

In December 2014, Dr. Chopra was named the Caroline Wiess Law Scholar, Assistant Professor of Molecular and Human Genetics, Molecular and Cellular Biology at Baylor. He is also an Attending Physician Pediatric Genetics Clinic at Texas Children’s Hospital. Using state of the art tools, Chopra and his team were able to study Neonatal Progeroid Syndrome in a patient, Abby Solomon, and eventually discovered a new hormone, asprosin, which could hold the key for future cures.

Solomon, 21, suffers from a condition that is due to a mutation of the FBN1 gene which results in mangled noses and eyes and damaged liver, making her look middle-aged. The mutation interferes with the production of asprosin which regulates blood sugar and make the person hypoglycemic. The deficiency makes Solomon snack all the time, but weighing only 99 lbs., she eats half the calories of a woman her age and also expends half as much energy.

Chopra met Solomon in 2013 and started studying her body functions, eventually discovering the blood sugar regulating gene asprosin. Solomon is essentially immune to obesity and diabetes, so Chopra hopes that the reducing asporisin in the blood could affect other people in the same way. So far, research has not been able to develop a drug that can effectively combat obesity and asporisin gives hope that one could be developed in the future. Chopra believes that many more hormones could be discovered in the coming decades.