Volume 1, number 2

On the trail of anti-obesity

They are more active, thinner and live 1.5 times longer. This is why Lou/C rats are of interest to a team of researchers in the Kinesiology Department at Université de Montréal and the Physical and Sports Activities Science and Technology Unit at University of Lyon. "They are called 'anti-obese' because they do not get fat," explains Jean-Marc Lavoie, Professor in the Department since 1973. "Even if they are stuffed with lipids, they remain thin. During exercise, for example, they metabolize fats more easily than other rats."

In Mr. Lavoie's laboratory at the Physical and Sports Education Centre at Université de Montréal, Karine Couturier is currently devoting her doctoral thesis to this rodent. Also attached to University of Lyon (under the codirection of Roland Favier), the researcher explains that the Lou/C line could teach us a lot. "These laboratory animals have been studied for forty years for cancer research, but we are just beginning to study its morphology," she says. "Our goal is to understand why their metabolism is so different, in particular during exercise."

To the untrained eye, there is nothing to distinguish the Lou/C from Wistars or Spague-Dawley rats, their albino "cousins." "The three subspecies are as similar as three peas in a pod," says Ms. Couturier with a smile.

However, behavioural observation does reveal some surprises. First and foremost, the Lou/C eats less-up to 40% less. No amount of temptation will make him eat more. He is content with a skimpy meal. But the behavioural study of anti-obese rats has also brought another astonishing surprise: they are veritable athletes. "Marathon runners," the doctoral candidate adds. "When they get on a treadmill, some rats can run up to 10 km in a single day, whereas the average rat will not go more than 500 m. That's 20 times as far…"

Researcher : Jean-Marc Lavoie
Phone : (514) 343-7044
Funding : Natural Sciences and Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Fund for Researcher Training and Assistance to Research (FCAR), Entretiens Jacques-Cartier, National Scientific Research Council (CNRS), Rhône-Alpes Region, Ministry of Education (France).