Body 'tricked' into weight loss7th November 2008
Researchers in France have tested a new weight-loss drug on mice, which can trick the body into burning fat regardless of diet.
Scientists found that mice given the drug SRT1720 were protected against weight gain and metabolic changes like insulin resistance which can lead to diabetes.
The team from the University of Louis Pasteur team said the drug, which is chemically related to resveratrol, an extract from red wine, targets an anti-ageing protein known as SIRT1.
Fewer drug options now exist in the fight against obesity, which affects around a quarter of men and a third of women in the United Kingdom alone, following the withdrawal of the anti-obesity drug rimonabant (or Accomplia) amid safety concerns.
Writing in the journal Cell Metabolism, the researchers said they first became interested in the SIRT1 protein after earlier studies showing resveratrol countered some effects of a high-calorie diet via SIRT1.
The drug they tested - SRT1720 - is a chemical cousin of red wine extract resveratrol.
It has the advantage of mimicking the effects of resveratrol without consuming the gallons of red wine that would be needed to produce a similar effect in humans using the naturally occurring compound.
Instead, scientists turned their attention to creating a more potent drug that would specifically target SIRT1.
Obesity experts said new drug treatments were needed but should be used alongside lifestyle changes.
Many people find it hard to maintain a lower weight even after a successful weight-loss programme involving exercise and dietary changes.
Experts point to more than 1,000 obesity-related deaths each week in the UK.
In the study, a low dose of SRT1720 partially protected mice from gaining weight on a high-fat diet after 10 weeks of treatment by shifting their metabolisms to fat-burning mode. This is a state that is usually reserved for times of low energy levels.
And the drug completely prevented weight gain in higher doses, improving the rodents' blood sugar tolerance and insulin sensitivity, which are important for warding off diabetes.
No obvious side-effects were seen, although further tests would be needed before the drug was deemed safe and effective enough to progress to human trials.
SRT1720 was developed by Sirtris Pharmaceuticals. Other, similar, compounds are also undergoing trials.
Obesity expert Professor Stephen Bloom of Imperial College London said the new findings were interesting, but that it was early days.
Others welcomed the research as necessary in the fight against obesity.
According to Professor Ian Broom, of the Centre for Obesity Research and Epidemiology at The Robert Gordon University, such drugs are an additional route for combating the obesity epidemic and the diseases caused by it.
But he added that drugs of this kind were not a substitute for improved diet and lifestyle changes.
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Title: Body 'tricked' into weight loss
Author: Luisetta Mudie
Article Id: 9051
Date Added: 7th Nov 2008