Tags: Obesity | skin | patch | burn | brown | fat | love

Skin Patch May Signal End to Love Handles

Skin Patch May Signal End to Love Handles
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By    |   Friday, 15 September 2017 11:27 AM

A new medicated skin patch applied to pockets of unwanted fat — like "love handles" — could make them disappear by turning energy-storing white fat into energy-burning brown fat, according to researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and the University of North Carolina.

People have two types of fat — white and brown. White fat stores excess energy in large droplets of triglyceride. Brown fat has smaller droplets and a high number of mitochondria, the energy-producing parts of cells that burn fat to produce heat. Newborns have large amounts of brown fat, which protects them against exposure to cold temperatures. But by adulthood, most brown fat has disappeared.

Researchers have spent years searching for therapies that can transform an adult's white fat into brown fat, a process named browning, as a treatment for obesity and diabetes. Browning can happen naturally when the body is exposed to cold temperature.

"There are several clinically available drugs that promote browning, but all must be given as pills or injections," said study co-leader Li Qiang, Ph.D. "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," he said.

To create the skin patch, the drugs are first encased in nanoparticles too small to be seen by the naked eye. The nanoparticles are then placed in a centimeter-square skin patch containing dozens of microscopic needles. When applied to skin, the needles painlessly pierce the skin and gradually release the drug from nanoparticles into underlying tissue.

The patch was tested in obese mice by loading the nanoparticles with one of two compounds known to promote browning: rosiglitazone (Avandia) or beta-adrenergic receptor agonist (CL 316243) that works well in mice but not in humans.

Each mouse was given two patches, one containing drug-containing nanoparticles and another without drugs. They were placed on either side of the lower abdomen, and new patches were applied every three days for a total of four weeks. Control mice were given two empty patches.

Mice treated with either of the two drugs experienced a 20 percent reduction in fat on the treated side compared to the untreated side. Their fasting blood glucose levels were also significantly lower than untreated mice.

Treatment with either of the two drugs also increased the animals' oxygen consumption (a measure of overall metabolic activity) by about 20 percent compared to untreated controls.

Genetic analyses revealed that the treated side contained more genes associated with brown fat than on the untreated side, suggesting that the metabolic changes and fat reduction were due to an increase in browning in the treated mice.

"Many people will no doubt be excited to learn that we may be able to offer a noninvasive alternative to liposuction for reducing love handles," says Qiang. "What's much more important is that our patch may provide a safe and effective means of treating obesity and related metabolic disorders such as diabetes."

The findings were published in ACS Nano.

A study published earlier this year identified an enzyme that appears to be responsible for most of the pounds that pile on during our 40s and 50s, and researchers say it could one day be blocked by a pill. Dr. Jay Chung and his team at the National Institute of Health found that the enzyme called DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK) becomes more active during mid-life.

DNA-PK helps convert nutrients into fat and lowers the number of mitochondria, the energy-producing parts of cells that turn food into energy. Researchers divided mice into two groups and gave one group a drug that blocked the enzyme. Both groups were fed high-fat diets.

Mice given the drug gained 40 percent less weight than the control group. "Our society attributes the weight gain and lack of exercise at mid-life (approximately 30-60 years) primarily to poor lifestyle choices and lack of will power, but this study shows that there is a genetic program driven by an overactive enzyme that promotes weight gain and loss of exercise capacity at mid-life," said Chung.

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A new medicated skin patch applied to pockets of unwanted fat - like "love handles" - could make them disappear by turning energy-storing white fat into energy-burning brown fat, according to researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and the University of...
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2017-27-15
Friday, 15 September 2017 11:27 AM
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