Obesity may be treated by regulating the levels of a key hormone in the body, a new study says.

Researchers at the University of Alberta say a new gene therapy could help fight obesity. The therapy has already shown to be effective in reducing weight, increasing activity and keeping sugar levels in check in animal models that were kept on a high- calorie diet.

The new gene therapy was delivered in experimental mice using DNA instead of virus. The therapy works by increasing levels of adiponectin in the body. Adipoectin is a hormone that is associated with helping the body break down sugars and fats in the body. People, who are overweight or obese have low levels of this hormone in the body while those who find it easy to keep off weight, have high levels of this hormone in their body.

"I think our findings may bring this treatment one step closer to clinical trials, as this approach appears to be much safer than conventional forms of gene therapy," said Jason Dyck, lead author of the study. People who suffer from type 2 diabetes also have lower levels of this hormone. A related study had found that exercising increases levels of adiponectin in the body.

Adiponectin also helps against inflammation- a known risk factor for heart problems. "This hormone seems to be protective against a number of diseases, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as well as weight gain. But as you gain weight, less adiponectin is secreted and you lose the beneficial effects associated with this hormone," said Dyck.

The animals that were used in the study showed greater weight reduction, activity and overall health after the gene therapy, the researchers said. The researchers say that the new therapy help provide an alternative for treatment of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

The study is published in the journal Nutrition and Diabetes.