An interesting new anti-obesity drug has demonstrated exciting results in early mouse studies. The drug is based on the same compound notable for giving chili peppers their characteristic burn.

The new research from a team at the University of Wyoming School of Pharmacy found that capsaicin, the chemical compound responsible for the burning sensation in chili peppers, can activate specific energy-burning receptors in fat cells. TRPV1 receptors, seen in high volumes in fat cells, can trigger those fat cells to burn energy instead of storing it.

But, simply concentrating capsaicin and administering it was not found to be an especially feasible or practical anti-obesity treatment. So the researchers modified the compound and developed a drug called Metabocin. This novel drug allows for a slower, more sustained release of capsaicin into a body, enhancing the bioavailability of the compound and reducing any unwanted side effects or toxicity.

Initial animal studies showed the drug to effectively promote weight loss, improve insulin sensitivity and activate brown fat thermogenesis. The most recent experiments examined the safety profile of the drug over long-term use. After eight months of continuous treatment the mouse models displayed no adverse safety issues and continued to exhibit weight loss.

"It proved safe and was well tolerated by the mice," says BaskaranThyagarajan, lead investigator on the project. "Developing Metabocin as a potent anti-obesity treatment shows promise as part of a robust strategy for helping people struggling with obesity."

But before you rush off to down a bottle of chili sauce, Thyagarajan also notes that these clinically significant effects cannot be achieved by simply eating lots of spicy food.

"Eating chili peppers may be beneficial but it is not possible to get the appropriate dose of capsaicin via chili peppers," explains Thyagarajan. "This is because various chili peppers contain varying amount of capsaicin."

The next stages for the research will explore the drug's safety, and then efficacy, in human trials. The team is currently seeking funds to embark on these clinical trials and is also developing novel capsaicin treatments for more site-specific obesity therapies. One project includes an injectable formulation of capsaicin that can be specifically administered to trigger anti-obesity effects in localized areas.

The new research will be presented at the upcoming Annual Meeting for the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior.