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New drug to 'shrink' harmful fat cells
March 18, 2018, 12:31 pm

Researchers have found that fat cells in obese mice, which had been fed a high-fat diet, underwent ‘shrinkage’, following the blocking of an enzyme named NNMT in their body.

The team of researchers at the University of Texas in the US said their study indicated that targeting NNMT could be an effective way to tackle overweight and obesity, both of which are key risk factors for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer among people.

The main cause of weight gain is an energy imbalance, wherein we consume more calories than we burn. This causes the body to store fat. As the fat cells grow larger, they begin to overexpress a protein that acts as a metabolic brake slowing down fat cell metabolism, making it harder for these cells to burn accumulating fat. In addition, as the fat tissue expands, they secrete greater amounts of hormones and pro-inflammatory signals that are responsible for several chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The research team says that they may have now discovered a way to restart fat cell metabolism in white fat cells, which are those that cause the most harm to health. The team focused on the inhibition of NNMT, which is an enzyme that previous research has shown to play a role in slowing fat cell metabolism.

Mice treated with an NNMT inhibitor experienced a 30 percent reduction in the size of their white fat cells, as well as a 7 percent reduction in total body weight, the team reported. Moreover, the blood cholesterol levels of mice that received NNMT inhibitors were normalized, making them comparable with the cholesterol levels of mice with a healthy weight.

Mice treated with the placebo, however, showed an increase in the size of white fat cells, and they gained weight. Notably, both groups of mice consumed the same amount of food during the study period. The researchers say that this shows that the weight loss of mice treated with NNMT inhibitors was not down to the suppression of appetite.

While further studies are needed to determine whether NNMT inhibitors are safe and effective in humans, the researchers say that inhibiting NNMT could possibly be a promising treatment for obesity in humans




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