Promising New Drug Could Fight Obesity Without Dieting

Researchers say they have discovered a promising new drug that could shrink excess fat cells; and all without having to make a dramatic change to your diet!  This new drug has been shown to reduce body weight and blood cholesterol in obese mice, in a laboratory setting.  The hope, of course, is that this new drug could help to fight obesity and other metabolic diseases, something that affects people all over the world.

Published in the journal Biochemical Pharmacology, the study was led by a team of researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), at Galveston.  This team found a molecule which can block the enzyme known as nicotinamide-N-methyltransferase (NNMT), and it was this action that led to the reduction in fat cells in the obese mice.

According to UTMB associate professor in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology Stanley Watowich, “As fat cells grow larger, they begin to overexpress a protein that acts as a metabolic brake that slows down fat cell metabolism, making it harder for these cells to burn accumulating fat.”

The lead study author goes on to say, “In addition, as the fat tissue expands, they secrete greater amounts of hormones and pro-inflammatory signals that are responsible for several chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.”

In this study, scientists gave mice a high-fat diet until they became obese.  At this point, mice were either given the new drug or a placebo.  After 10 days of this treatment regimen, they found that the obese mice receiving the drug lost more than 7 percent of their total body weight. Also, those mice who received the drug also saw a 30 percent decrease in white fat tissue mass and cell size, compared against the placebo group.  Furthermore, the mice receiving the drug also saw their blood cholesterol drop fell to normal levels again.

Perhaps more importantly, the placebo-treated mice also accumulated white fat and gained weight throughout the study.

At the end of the day, UTMB research scientist Harshini Neelakantan comments, “Blocking the action of the fat cell brake provides an innovative ‘fat’-specific mechanism to increase cell metabolism and reduce the size of white fat deposits, thereby treating a root cause of obesity and related metabolic diseases. These initial results are encouraging and support further development of this technology as a new and more effective approach to combating metabolic diseases.”

According to UTMB, obesity costs the US an estimated $150 billion each year.

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