Focus-Science and Technology - - Discoveries -

Got a bit of ex­cess bag­gage around your mid-sec­tion you’d like to lose? Help may be on the way. A team at Co­lum­bia Uni­ver­sity has cre­ated a med­i­cated skin patch that has suc­cess­fully ‘melted’ ex­cess fat in over­weight mice.

We all have two kinds of fat – white and brown. White fat stores ex­tra en­ergy in large glob­u­lar de­posits, while brown fat is stored in smaller de­posits and can be eas­ily burned to pro­duce heat. Ba­bies have lots of brown fat to help keep them warm but as we age it is grad­u­ally lost.

“There are sev­eral clin­i­cally avail­able drugs that pro­mote brown­ing, but all must be given as pills or in­jec­tions,” said study coleader Dr Li Qiang. “This ex­poses the whole body to the drugs, which can lead to side ef­fects such as stom­ach up­set, weight gain and bone frac­tures. Our skin patch ap­pears to al­le­vi­ate these com­pli­ca­tions by de­liv­er­ing most drugs di­rectly to fat tis­sue.”

The patches are cov­ered in mi­cro­scopic nee­dles that de­liver spe­cially de­signed brown­ing drugs di­rectly to prob­lem ar­eas, where they grad­u­ally dis­solve. Obese mice treated with the patches showed a 20 per cent re­duc­tion in fat and sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced blood glu­cose lev­els.

The re­searchers are cur­rently in­ves­ti­gat­ing the ef­fec­tive­ness of dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions of drugs but hope to start hu­man tri­als in the near fu­ture.

The drugs are en­closed into nanopar­ti­cles, each mea­sur­ing 250nm (0.00025mm) in di­am­e­ter, be­fore be­ing loaded into the nee­dles

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