The development of a new drug-delivery approach could hold the potential for treating obesity, according to American researchers.
Scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have developed nanoparticles that can deliver obesity-tackling drugs directly to fat tissue.
In a study on overweight mice, treatment with these nanoparticles led to mice losing 10 per cent of their body weight over 25 days, without displaying any negative side effects.
Nanoparticle drug-delivery strategy
The nanoparticle drug-delivery strategy has been developed in recent years to treat diseases such as cancer. It works by delivering a strong drug dose to particles of the disease site while limiting the accumulation of the drug in other areas.
The researchers packaged two drugs in the nanoparticles: a diabetes drug called Avandia (rosiglitazone) and a type of human hormone known as prostaglandin. Both of these drugs transform white adipose tissue, which is made of fat-storing cells, into brown adipose tissue, which burns fat. Avandia, though, was banned in the UK in September 2010.
The nanoparticles carry the drugs using a polymer called PLGA, while the outer shell of the nanoparticles is made up of another polymer called PEG. The researchers designed the PEG to embed with target molecules which guide the drug particles to the correct destination.
Following nanoparticle delivery in the mice, who had been fed a high-fat diet, the mice lost 10 per cent of their body weight, had lower cholesterol and triglycerides, and became more sensitive to insulin. Because obesity can result in insulin resistance, this can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Senior author Robert Langer, MIT, said: “The advantage here is now you have a way of targeting it to a particular area and not giving the body systemic effects. You can get the positive effects that you’d want in terms of antiobesity but not the negative ones that sometimes occur.”
Suitable for obese patients?
Studies will need to be conducted on humans to assess how effective this new delivery is in the short-term and long-term. Currently, the research team are some way away from investigating this.
However, co-senior author Omid Farokhzad, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, believes that this approach could be suitable for morbidly obese patients because the particles are injected intravenously.
“For it to be more broadly applicable for treatment of obesity, we have to come up with easier ways to administer these targeted nanoparticles, such as orally,” said Farokhzad.
The findings appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.

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