A protein that prevents obesity and the development of type 2 diabetes

Researchers have discovered a protein in a bacterium which prevents obesity and the development of type 2 diabetes in mice.

Research groups led by University of Helsinki Professor Willem de Vos and University of Leuven Professor Patrice Can have successfully halted the development of obesity and type 2 diabetes in their experiments.

Mice in the study were treated with two different compounds made with the Akkermansia muciniphila bacterium. The Akkermansia bacterium pasteurised at 70 degrees was found to be twice as efficient as the living bacterium. A possible cause for this is a protein on the bacterium’s outer membrane which communicates with its host. This protein remains active even after being heated to above 70 degrees. Pasteurisation prevents the formation of potentially dangerous substances inside the bacterium, but keeps the protein active.

When the researchers prepared the protein and fed it to mice, the protein prevented obesity and diabetes in the mice as effectively as the pasteurised bacterium. The protein prevented toxic substances from entering the bloodstream and boosted the intestinal immune response.

 “If these methods are found to be effective in humans, in the future we could develop compounds with this bacterium which could help treat obesity and diabetes, but also cardio-vascular diseases as well as intestinal infections relating to stress, alcoholism, liver damage and cancer," says Noora Ottman, a University of Helsinki researcher.

Completed in the Netherlands, Noora Ottman’s 2015 dissertation examines the mechanisms which enable the Akkermansia to interact with the human intestine.

The use of the protein as well as the Akkermansia bacterium to treat illnesses has been patented, and large-scale production is currently being developed. Clinical trials regarding the efficacy and safety of using Akkermansia in humans are currently underway.

The Akkermansia muciniphila bacterium was discovered roughly ten years ago at the Dutch University of Wageningen. The research groups led by Willem de Vos and Patrice Can were the first to establish the important role this bacterium can play in the fight against type 2 diabetes, obesity and intestinal infections.

The study was published in the esteemed Nature Medicine journal.

Hubert Plovier, Amandine Everard, Céline Druart, Clara Depommier, Matthias Van Hul, Lucie Geurts, Julien Chilloux, Noora Ottman, Thibaut Duparc, Laeticia Lichtenstein, Antonis Myridakis, Nathalie M Delzenne, Judith Klievink, Arnab Bhattacharjee, Kees C H van der Ark, Steven Aalvink, Laurent O Martinez, Marc-Emmanuel Dumas, Dominique Maiter, Audrey Loumaye, Michel P Hermans, Jean-Paul Thissen, Clara Belzer, Willem M de Vos & Patrice D Cani. A purified membrane protein from Akkermansia muciniphila or the pasteurized bacterium improves metabolism in obese and diabetic mice. Nature Medicine http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nm.4236