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Researchers Control Weight With A Cellular Trick

Biologists at UC San Diego have found a very effective way to lose weight. It's done by fooling the body into thinking it's at a high altitude.

Anyone who's quickly moved from a low to a high altitude knows the side effects of breathing low levels of oxygen: higher heart rates, anemia, and hyperventilation.

Researchers at UCSD removed an enzyme from lab mice to make them feel as though they are always breathing oxygen levels that are too low. The mice burned lots of calories and did not gain a lot of weight, even while eating fatty foods.

Biology professor Randall Johnson said if you gave humans a drug that suppressed the same enzyme, it could be an effective treatment for obesity and diabetes. "What this drug could potentially do is it could increase their metabolic rate," he said. "So they would essentially burn more calories in spite of the fact that they were eating more."

Johnson said the obvious problem with such treatment would be side effects like hyperventilation.