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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Some North Texas researchers believe they have found a way to control obesity by manipulating molecules in the heart.

Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas have demonstrated, for the first time, that the heart can regulate energy balance.

"We discovered a protein that's expressed in the heart, it's a protein called MED 13, and it turns out that this protein regulates metabolism in the whole body," explained Dr. Eric Olson, chairman of molecular biology at UT Southwestern.

Dr. Olson said researchers fed mice a high-fat diet, then 'turned on' the protein and were genuinely surprised.

"Of course we went back and said 'wait a minute we better check this again' and have done it many times," Olson said, "It was really unexpected. We didn't go into this looking for a way to treat obesity, it just was a serendipitous observation."

Of the test Dr. Olson said researchers learned, "We can make them resistant to obesity," but that wasn't all, "We can also treat many of the other aspects of abnormal metabolism like the struggle to lower cholesterol and improve glucose handling in these animals."

Researchers said despite their high-fat diet the mice stayed lean as long as the protein was 'activated'. When the protein was removed the mice become obese.

Olson said they're now using the protein to develop an obesity drug that might also be used to combat high cholesterol and Type 2 Diabetes. But researchers say that drug is still a long way from even being tested in humans.

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