Women who are suffering from obesity often have great difficulty in becoming pregnant. Many of these women choose to have infertility treatments to help them to conceive. Once the child or children are born, the children are much more prone to suffer from obesity themselves – a problem of great concern. A new diabetes drug that is currently in clinical trials may be the answer to this problem. Researchers who developed the new drug found that the problem originates in the mitochondria in the mother’s eggs.
What are Mitochondria?
Mitochondria are tiny compartments that are present in every cell in the body, and that perform many diverse and vital functions to keep the body healthy. One of the most critical functions is the conversion of the energy from food into energy that can be then be used by the cell. The mitochondria function almost like a miniature battery in cells, and when damaged, often self-destruct. The energy-making qualities of mitochondria is usually damaged in obese women, and this cell damage is also present in their eggs. The children are then born with damaged mitochondria, and a propensity for obesity, just like the mother.
Cellular stress can damage all parts of the body, including liver, pancreas and brain. A genetic mutation in the mice caused them to overeat and become obese. The scientists closely monitored the cell stress of these obese mice and whether the activity in the mitochondria was affected, as well as the eggs when used in IVF (in vitro fertilization). This led to the discovery that the mitochondria in the mice had been damaged. The mice born from these eggs also were found to have lower mitochondrial activity, and a higher propensity for obesity.
A new diabetes drug that is currently in clinical trials may have found a treatment for this problem. So far, the drug has proven to be effective when tested on obese mice, and showed lower levels of cellular stress and higher levels of mitochondrial activity. When the eggs of the obese mice treated with the drug (called BGP-15) were then fertilized and transferred to mouse “surrogate mothers,” they did not develop into overweight fetuses.
Both parents contribute DNA to a child, but the mitochondria from the mother’s eggs are the basis for the mitochondria developed in every cell in the child’s body. This diabetes drug may have shed a light on how obesity is passed onto children, and offer new hope to obese women hoping to conceive and have healthier children as well.
Science Magazine: Diabetes Drug May Help Obese Women