Thursday, January 29, 2015

Investigating Brown Fat, Cells, and Hormones to Develop Obesity Drugs

Within the past few years, a number of new weight loss drugs have come on the market. These drugs are Qsymia, Belviq, Contrave, and Saxenda. However, none of these drugs achieve results that many in the weight loss industry would like to see. So researchers continue to look for new obesity drug possibilities. The new possibilities include drugs that may convert white fat into brown fat, drugs that may reduce cells in the brain that cause hunger, and drugs that may activate or deactivate hormones that affect how much we want to eat.
According to a study described in the Harvard Crimson, researchers, led by associate professor Chad Cowan,  have discovered two compounds that can change white fat to brown fat in mice. If the researchers are able to create drugs that can convert white fat into brown fat in humans, this will be a great discovery for the weight loss industry. "The significance of the discovery, according to Cowan, lies in its potential to transform the body’s energy-storing white fat into energy-burning brown fat."

And researchers from UC San Francisco found that mice that were fed a high fat diet experienced a growth in the number of immune cells called microglia in the hypothalamus of the brain. The researchers suggested that "Immune cells perform a previously unsuspected role in the brain that may contribute to obesity..." The researchers took a hard look at microglia cells. And the researchers found that when they used an experimental drug or performed genetic manipulation to remove the microglia, hypothalamus inflammation was reduced and the mice ate less food.

In another investigation, scientists in Germany created a drug that combines parts of the hormones GLP-1, GIP, and glucagon to make a single molecule. GLP-1, GIP, and glucagon are hormones that play major roles in how much we eat. The combined drug activates GLP-1, GIP and glucagon, but no other hormones. In mice, this drug causes as much weight loss as bariatric surgery. If some version of the drug eventually works in humans, the scientists suggest that the drug could rival "the dramatic benefits seen with [bariatric] surgery, dropping excess body weight by a third."

Although the above studies were done in mice, human studies may show results similar to the mice results. If this happens, we could have noninvasive weight loss approaches that compete with weight loss surgery. 


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