Two Promising New Obesity Treatments

More evidence of vibrant interest in new obesity treatments can be found in the news around two promising new approaches to the treatment of obesity. These research results are from animals and lab models, so there’s a long way to go before the promising concepts become approved medical treatments.

The first comes from a new study published in Nature Medicine that identifies a peptide targeting three distinct hormone receptors: GLP-1, GIP, and glucagon receptors. Brian Finan and colleagues conducted a range of experiments on the unique mechanism of this protein. They demonstrated that it essentially reversed obesity and diabetes in rodents. Senior investigator Matthias Tschöp invokes some heady language describing its potential:

Think of this as an injectable elixir that could reverse obesity and type 2 diabetes by cheating a body into believing that it just received a gastric bypass.

The second approach involves activating brown fat to increase the rate at which your body burns energy. In a study also published in Nature Medicine, Justin Crane and colleagues demonstrate that by targeting an enzyme, Tph1, they can regulate serotonin production in a way that leads to stimulating the activity of brown fat and increasing the rate that mice burn calories as a result.

In Nature Cell Biology, scientists from the Harvard Stem Cell Institute identified yet another way to stimulate the activity of brown fat — targeting the JAK enzyme. The net result of this approach is to stimulate the formation of more brown fat tissue.

All of this work is very early stuff. Many pitfalls lie ahead. But the excitement it’s generating suggests a growing momentum for research to address the biological basis of obesity.

Click here to read more about the research by Finan et al and here to read their publication. Click here to read more about the research on serotonin and brown fat, and here to read the publication. Click here to read more about targeting JAK to stimulate brown fat and here to read the publication.

Serotonin, photograph © Taema / flickr

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2 Responses to “Two Promising New Obesity Treatments”

  1. December 16, 2014 at 8:22 am, gerry stanewick said:

    Ten years ago I was involved with pyy a gut hormone that we tried to deliver nasally and via the lung. It was impossible to pass the blood brain barrier intact and the trials died. You can’t ingest the molecules mentioned
    in the article as the stomach will destroy them. One team tried to a peg on the molecule and it was never absorbed. If the new molecules are delivered intravenously I dare say the side effect profiles could be quite
    interesting. But I hope they succeed.

    • December 16, 2014 at 2:05 pm, Ted said:

      Thanks for the perspective, Gerry. I think the peptide is envisioned to be an injection. But very early days and many ways for it to fail.