Clues to the Cycle of Obesity, Inflammation, and Disease

The cycle of obesity, inflammation, and disease is providing clues for new approaches to treating obesity. At the University of Michigan, a phase 2, placebo-controlled trial will begin this month to test the potential to block a new inflammatory pathway that links obesity, inflammation, and disease.

Amlexanox is an old drug uncommonly used for asthma and canker sores. It’s being tested for its potential to reduce obesity, diabetes, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in this study. Previous research has shown that amlexanox can block two enzymes, IKKε and TBK1, that reduce cellular sensitivity to catecholamines (like adrenaline) and thus reduce energy expenditure. The elevation of IKKε and TBK1 results from chronic inflammation that accompanies obesity.

Separately, the microbiome may have a role in moderating the inflammation associated with obesity. The quality of bacteria in your gut has been shown to influence your risk of obesity and the inflammatory processes associated with obesity and its comorbidities.

Yet another clue to the cycle of obesity, inflammation, and disease is the accumulation of macrophages in visceral adipose tissue. Researchers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School recently discovered that this proliferation occurs exclusively in adipose tissue. They found that the protein MCP-1 drives the proliferation.

The clues are accumulating. With luck, the answers will come.

Click here to read more about the research at the University of Michigan, here to read the publication, here for more detail on the upcoming trial, here for the more about links to the microbiome, and here for the study of macrophage accumulation in adipose tissue.

Rolling Smoke, photograph © TC Morgan / flickr

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