Pill to Cure Obesity Closer to Reality

A weight loss pill designed to resolve obesity may be closer to becoming reality in light of recent research that reveals how the body develops resistance to the hormone leptin.

Professor Tony Tiganis of Monash UniversityResearchers at Australia’s Monash University, together with colleagues in the U.S., have a new understanding of how the body develops a resistance to leptin, a hormone known to be a causal component of obesity.

Our bodies produce leptin when we take in more fat so that we increase our energy expenditure and decrease our food intake.

“The body’s response to leptin is diminished in overweight and obese individuals, giving rise to the concept of ‘leptin-resistance’,” noted the study’s lead author Dr. Tony Tiganis of the Monash Obesity and Diabetes Institute and Monash University’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. “We’ve discovered more about how ‘leptin-resistance’ develops, providing new directions for research into possible treatments,” he said.

Two proteins are already known to inhibit leptin in the brain. The discovery of a third protein by Dr. Tiganis’ team provided additional insights concerning the progression of obesity. In mice, this third protein increases with weight-gain, making the mice more leptin-resistant and hastening the progression to morbid obesity.

The new findings can help scientists develop drug treatments designed to counteract the body’s natural mechanisms and curb the tendency toward obesity.

“Drugs targeting one of the negative regulators are already in clinical trials for Type 2 Diabetes,” Dr. Tiganis said. To increase leptin-sensitivity in obesity, however, all three regulators might need to be switched off.

Despite the strides made with the latest findings, any future drug therapy will need to be initiated in conjunction with good diet and exercise choices, Dr. Tiganis cautioned.

“Simply telling people to eat less and exercise more is not going to be sufficient to reverse the obesity trend. There is a pressing need to develop novel drugs that complement diet and exercise to both prevent and treat this disease,” he said.

The study appeared earlier this month in the journal Cell Metabolism.

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