Novel nanoparticles capable of delivering anti-obesity medication directly into fat tissue, have been developed by researchers MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. When the developers tested these nanoparticles in overweight mice, they found that the animals lost 10 percent of their body weight over a 25 day period.
What’s more, the mice seemed to lose the weight without experiencing any negative side effects of the treatment. The drugs used in the study act on the fat-storing white adipose tissue, turning it into fat-burning brown adipose tissue.
The anti-obesity drugs also stimulate angiogenesis – or blood vessel formation and growth – throughout the fat tissue. This effect allows the nanoparticles to more efficiently perform their drug delivery function, further stimulating the white-to-brown transformation.
While the drugs are not new, the researchers wanted to develop a novel way to target the drug delivery to the fat cells, thereby mitigating the risk of side effects on other body tissues. According to the researchers, the drugs used in the study are not US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved to treat obesity.
“The advantage here is now you have a way of targeting it to a particular area and not giving the body systemic effects,” said Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT and a member of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research. “You can get the positive effects that you’d want in terms of anti-obesity, but not the negative ones that sometimes occur.”
In addition to the significant weight loss, the researchers also noted that the mice treated with the nanoparticle-encapsulated anti-obesity drug showed lower levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. The mice also showed improved insulin sensitivity, which could help protect against type 2 diabetes.
Over one-in-three Americans is considered to be obese, with the condition ranking as the top preventable cause of death in US in 2015. Approximately 20 percent of the 600,000 cancer deaths were attributed to obesity last year alone.
“This is a very exciting and clinically important contribution, grounded in the recognition of the significant and growing need for new therapeutic approaches for the treatment of obesity,” said Marsha Moses, a professor at Harvard Medical School and director of the vascular biology program at Boston Children’s Hospital. “The authors convincingly demonstrate that by coupling the selective transformation of adipose tissue from an energy storage status to an energy expenditure status with the stimulation of angiogenesis, one can effectively reduce obesity in vivo.”