With Experimental Drug, Inspired by Cancer Treatment, Obese Monkeys Shed Nearly 40% of Their Fat

By Valerie Ross | November 10, 2011 12:45 pm

An experimental drug causes obese monkeys to lose weight and improves their metabolic function by depriving their fat of its blood supply, researchers reported yesterday in Science Translational Medicine, offering hope that such drugs could help battle obesity in people, as well.

The drug borrows a technique used in some cancer treatments: essentially, starving a tumor by attacking the blood vessels that feed it. In this case, the drug—called adipotide—goes after the blood vessels in fatty tissue instead, causing fat deposits to shrink. When scientists gave 10 obese monkeys adipotide for four weeks each, the monkeys shed between 7% and 15% of their body weight and, on average, more than 38% of their body fat. Not only that, the monkeys showed better metabolic function, suggesting they were at lower risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other obesity-related conditions than they had been.

It’s not clear yet how safe the drug is—it hasn’t been tested in the long term, and it caused minor side effects in some of the monkeys—or whether it will work as well in people as it does in monkeys. But the first human trial could start as early as next year; the researchers plan to give obese patients with advanced prostate cancer, who fare significantly worse than thinner patients, a four-week course of the drug to test whether it will help them lose weight.

Image courtesy of lavenderstreak / Flickr

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
  • Cathy

    For the very seriously obese, such a drug might be the magic bullet, I hope. But I’m not going to hold my breath – those “minor side effects” could be worse than the effects of obesity itself. How long does it stay in the system? Would someone with a slow metabolism and weight problems be required to take it for the rest of their lives? Still, I am grateful that researchers are beginning to approach morbid obesity as a disease deserving treatment in its own right, rather than just a precipitator of other diseases.

  • giusseppe

    i’m going to put a tourniquet around my belly. 6 pack in no time…

  • ColinC

    If you read the LA Times article, the scientists speculate that the fat deposits, once they start getting starved for blood, send signals to the brain saying they are at capacity and suggesting the brain eat less food. So… can we just mimic those chemicals? Wouldn’t that cause fewer side effects?

  • Andrew

    this may sound insensitive, but this should really be a last ditch effort. It seems to me like diet/exercise/healthy lifestyle should be pushed harder than a magic drug, otherwise people could just ignore the effects of eating unhealthily and not exercising because they have this wonder-drug to fall back on.

  • Chris

    Sure, it should be a last ditch effort. Many people, including some I know, are entering their 60′s with 80-100 pounds of extra fat. They’ve lived poor lifestyles for so long they’re essentially unable to exercise enough to lose weight effectively. Generally they already suffer from type II diabetes and have personality traits that aren’t conducive to weight loss either. For them it *is* the final chance they’ll have at living another 5 years or living another 20+ years. I think if they had something like this new med to get them some momentum in the right direction that they could see nearly right away, it would be the catalyst they need to persevere with healthier habits.

  • http://curtisgroup.com Mark

    There are people like me out there. I was 6′ 4″ and 305 lbs when I was 12 years old. I am now 58, 6′ 2″ (back operations) and 335 lbs. I was a defensive tackle in school where I exercised vigorously every day and a heavyweight wrestler that included full daily workouts in a sweat room. I have consistently lifted weights over the years – even now. I have never been a “snacker” and instead eat fresh fruits and vegetables. And, yet, I have always been “obese” and unable to move toward the 200 lbs. that I should ideally weigh (insurance company stats). My cholesterol levels are at 147 and my blood pressure is at 120/75. So… I would give my left nut for a drug like this (it’s useless now anyway). At some time or another in my life I have quit smoking cold-turkey, quit marijuana cold-turkey, and quit one nasty woman cold-turkey. The problem is that you cannot quit eating cold-turkey. My fat cells have never listened to what the rest of my body tells them. They just go on blithely sucking every precious calorie possible out of anything I eat.

  • Obeserver On The Hill

    Not to worry – once Ezekiel Emmanuel MD, Rahm Emmanuel’s brother, who is Barack Obama’s “Special Advisor for Health Policy” implements the “COMPLETE LIVES SYSTEM” the obese and unhealthy will not be deemed “worthy” of treatment due to healthcare costs. Those old, fat people are no longer productive to the collective and must be culled from the herd.

  • CJ

    Sign. Me. Up.

  • Redshift

    I want some.

    and a large chocolate milkshake.

  • NO

    A magical eat-all-you-want pill without side effects would be disastrous for this world.

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