A new drug that can treat obesity is being developed by researchers of the University of Texas Medical Branch. If proven successful, this promising drug could help reduce body weight without any dieting or reducing food intake.

The UTMB researchers have discovered a molecule that can block proteins in fat cells that causes metabolic brake in obese people. A metabolic brake slows down fat metabolism, making it harder for those with obesity to burn accumulated excess fats.

The said molecule inhibitor, nicotinamide-N-methyltransferase or NNMT, was able to reverse high-fat-diet-induced obesity in mice.

NNMT is a type of cytosolic enzyme that can normalize cell and energy metabolism. Researchers investigated the permeability, selective mechanistic, and physiological properties of small-molecule NMTT inhibitor to determine NMTT as an anti-obesity drug target.

"As fat cells grow larger, they begin to overexpress a protein that acts as a metabolic brake that slows down fat cell metabolism, making it harder for these cells to burn accumulating fat," says Stanley Watowich, associate professor at the UTMB Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Excess fat cells in the body secrete more hormones and other pro-inflammatory signals that are responsible for chronic diseases such as type-2 diabetes and diseases that can lead to a heart attack.

Increasing cell metabolism and reduction of white fat deposits are crucial to the treatment of obesity. Initial results of the study encourage new and effective approach to combating obesity and other chronic metabolic diseases.

Drug Tested On Mice

The new drug was tested on mice that were fed a high-fat diet until they became obese. Afterward, the subjects underwent 10 days of treatment using the anti-obesity drug.

Researchers found that the obese mice receiving the drug lost more than 7 percent of their total body weight. Their white fat tissue and cell size also decreased by 30 percent. Blood cholesterol levels of the drug-treated mice also decreased to normal levels.

Another group of mice that were under the placebo treatment continued to gain weight and accumulate white fat. Both groups of mice were fed the same types and amount of food during the study.

It was also noted in the study that the administration of the NNMT inhibitors did not affect total food intake or resulted to observable adverse effects.

Untreated Obesity Epidemic

In the United States, an estimate of 40 percent of adults are obese, and 30 percent are overweight, making obesity a serious epidemic. A study revealed that one in every five Americans is obese.

A national survey conducted in 2016 found that the combined overweight and obesity rates among children and teens aged 10 to 17 ranged from a low 19.2 percent in Utah to a high 37.7 percent in Tennessee. On a national level, 31.2 percent of children and teens within the said age range are considered obese.

The study was published in the journal Science Direct

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