The protein, called TRAP (tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase), “stimulates the formation of new fat cells and can thus precipitate the development of obesity,” the Institute said in a statement.
The research was based on cell cultures and mice studies, and showed that patients with obesity have excessive levels of the protein.
“This protein is potentially useful in the treatment of conditions involving morbid cachexia (weight loss), such as cancer diseases,” said professor Göran Andersson, who led the study.
“The discovery can also lead to new ways of treating obesity based on the inhibition of this protein’s effect,” he added.
The study lasted four years and followed 14 obese women, Andersson told AFP. The results were published Wednesday in the US online journal Public Library of Science.