Injection turns white fat to brown fat, mice lose 20% of belly fat in 80 days
(COLUMBUS, Ohio) September 2012 – Researchers at The Ohio State University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center have taken a crucial first step in a new approach to treating obesity, one that requires a simple shot to burn belly fat.
In lab tests, a single injection reduced belly fat in mice by 20% in just 80 days.¹ “Those results are unlike any treatment we currently have,” said Ouliana Ziouzenkova, PhD, a researcher at The Ohio State University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center, “this was actually very big, and a surprising outcome of our study.”
While this study focused on mice, there is growing optimism that a similar approach could help control the obesity epidemic in humans in this country. By the year 2030 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts 42% of Americans will be obese², double the amount just a generation ago.³
With that weight comes a whole host of problems. “Excessive abdominal fat, known as visceral fat, is associated with everything from type-2 diabetes to heart disease to some forms of cancer,” said Ziouzenkova, “and it’s extremely difficult to remove this particular type of fat.”
In fact, diet and exercise alone often fail to reduce visceral fat once it’s formed and, because it’s located around vital organs, it can be very hard to remove surgically.
So, Ziouzenkova and a team of researchers at Ohio State are taking a different approach, by injecting microscopic fat-burning capsules directly into the belly fat of mice.
“We’re trying to develop something that differs from the way people have been treating obesity in the past,” said David DiSilvestro, a member of the research team. “What we’re doing is injecting certain types of cells that will burn calories for you, so you don’t have to.”
The cells they are injecting are actually brown fat cells. Our bodies have two types of fat: brown fat, which is burned for energy, and white fat, which is stored and is much harder to lose. The fat that gathers around your midsection, known as visceral fat, is white. “That’s the harmful type of fat, and precisely what we’re targeting in this approach,” said DiSilvestro.
In the past, researchers have tried to simply inject energy-burning brown fat cells directly into white fat tissue, but that didn’t work. “As soon as you inject brown fat into white, the immune system attacks the brown fat cells and kills them,” explained DiSilvestro. “We needed a different plan.”
So, researchers have developed one. They are putting brown fat cells into microscopic capsules first, then injecting them into white fat tissue and the results are encouraging.¹
During the study, researchers here put several mice on high-fat diets. After gaining considerable weight, scientists then injected these fat-burning capsules directly into their belly fat. Remarkably, even though the mice ate just as much as before, and didn’t exercise at all, the fat began to disappear.“
I don’t believe there is a single treatment to date that is capable of reducing visceral fat by 20%,” said Ziouzenkova, “and, we could probably improve these results.”
Scientists say the capsules are the key. “They work almost like missionaries,” said Ziouzenkova, “they are invisible to the immune system and, once we ‘sneak’ them into the white fat, they convert it into brown fat and begin to burn it.”
DiSilvestro explained further: “These capsules are porous,” he said, “they have tiny holes in them that are small enough that immune cells can’t get inside to kill the brown fat cells, but large enough that proteins and hormones and things like that are able to pass in and out.”
When they do, the result is near-effortless weight loss, at least in the lab.
“This implantation sounds like complex surgery, but it’s not,” said Ziouzenkova. “It’s a simple injection. It’s not invasive, best of all, it’s reversible.”
While the initial approach has proven effective in mice, researchers don’t want to stop there. “Next, we’ll try this capsule for on larger animals, like obese pets, for example,” said Ziouzenkova. “But our final goal, of course, is to translate this therapy to humans.”
¹The prolonged survival of fibroblasts with forced lipid catabolism in visceral fat following encapsulation in alginate-poly-l-lysine, Biomaterials, Volume 33, Issue 22, August 2012. Online: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0142961212004577
²CDC Weight of the Nation Press Briefing, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, May 7, 2012. Online: http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2012/t0507_weight_nation.html
³Facts About Obesity in the United States, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Online: http://www.cdc.gov/pdf/facts_about_obesity_in_the_united_states.pdf