You want to lose weight, but you don't want to eat less – right? Well, when and if a new drug makes it to market, you may get your wish. Scientists from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston are developing a medication that has already lowered body weight in obese mice, even though they kept eating the same amount.
Fat cells begin to overexpress a protein known as nicotinamide-N-methyltransferase (NNMT), as they get larger. NNMT acts as a metabolic brake which slows down fat cell metabolism, so the more of it that's expressed, the harder it is for the cells to burn fat – it's a vicious circle.
That's where the experimental new drug comes in. It blocks NNMT from operating in obese white fat cells, allowing their fat-burning metabolism to increase.
The researchers tested it by placing mice on a high-fat diet until they became obese, after which the animals received either the drug or a placebo. After 10 days of treatment, the drugged mice experienced a 7 percent loss in total body weight, plus their white fat tissue mass and cell size decreased by 30 percent compared to the placebo group. Their blood cholesterol levels also returned to normal levels.
By contrast, mice in the placebo group continued to gain weight. Both they and the mice that received the actual drug continued to consume the same amount of food throughout the study.
"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," says Harshini Neelakantan, the study's senior author. "These initial results are encouraging and support further development of this technology as a new and more effective approach to combating metabolic diseases."
A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Biochemical Pharmacology.
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