New Drug Helps Overweight Monkeys Lose Weight – Could We Be Next?

March 14, 2014

In a recent trial conducted at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, scientists have found that Adipotide – a new drug designed to attack excess body fat – has helped obese monkeys lose weight, according to a study published in the Science Translational Medicine Journal. Although questions still exist regarding the drug’s effectiveness on human beings, tests involving humans could begin shortly, and its unique fat-attack properties present a potential breakthrough in the battle against obesity.

The new drug was designed to target and kill the blood supply that keeps fat cells alive, and it helped the overweight monkeys lose an average of 11% of their total body weight. This differs from previous weight-loss drugs in that it does not increase metabolism or control hunger.

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“Without the blood supply, the fat withers away and is re-metabolized by the liver,” said study author Dr. Wadih Arap. “It is incredibly exciting, a dream coming true in slow motion.”

The drug was actually tested for the first time in 2004, when it was shown to be effective in bringing about substantial weight loss in mice. For the most recent study, researchers chose monkeys from the colony that were naturally less active and liked to eat more, and did not use animals that were made genetically obese or forced to gain weight in any way. This makes them similar to many of the humans that could eventually benefit from the new drug.

“Within a few weeks of administering the drug it became clear to use that the efficacy we had seen in rodents was being transplanted to monkeys,” said Kristin Barnhart, a lead researcher on the team. “They were getting their waistlines back so we were starting to see the effect. It was such an important milestone for the drug.”

The drug was also found to lower the Body Mass Index of the monkeys, but interestingly animals that were given the drug but were not obese did not lose weight. Researchers are hopeful that the effectiveness of the drug on monkeys – which are closely related to humans – bodes well for its effectiveness and safety when used to help people lose weight.

MRIs were used as part of the study to confirm that the monkeys lost the same “white” body fat most overweight humans need to shed, which also happens to be linked to heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Unfortunately, once the monkeys stopped taking the drug and returned to their previous habits, the weight returned, which is a common problem among all types of weight-loss methods that do not involve serious lifestyle changes.

“The hope is that in patients, we say this treatment gave you a leg up and helped you lose the weight, now you have to diet and exercise and change your lifestyle,” Arap stated.

Side effects among the monkeys were found to be mild and reversible, including slight changes in the kidneys. But keep in mind that even if Adipotide is eventually proven to be successful in humans, it could be years before the FDA makes it available for mass consumption.

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