While there are several oral and injection treatments that currently promote browning in humans, these methods expose the whole body to the medication, which can cause side effects like nausea and even bone fracture, according to Qiang. The important discovery in his trials was the method used to administer the medication. A skin patch is applied to the targeted area, painlessly administering nanoparticles of medicine into fat tissue.
“The nanoparticles will not enter circulation, thus they minimize the effects on other organs, such as the heart and bones,” Qiang said. “The micro-needle ensures region-specific drug delivery [and] the glucose sensing technology [ensures] proper drug release,” he added. “Through the combination of these designs, we would like to make sure our treatment is efficient, safe, and region-specific.”
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During the study, Qiang and his team applied two patches to the lower abdomen of the obese mice — one containing the browning drugs and one without — every three days for four weeks. They found that mice treated with either of the two drugs (rosiglitazone or beta-adrenergic receptor agonist) had a 20 percent reduction in fat on the treated side compared to the untreated side. They also found that when they tested the drugs on normal, lean mice, the oxygen consumption of the mice was increased by 20 percent, an indication that this method could help diabetics.
“We observed the increase of energy metabolism and glucose homeostasis after our treatment, which we think is through improved adipose (body tissue used for fat storage) health,” Qiang said. “We believe that more diabetic drugs can be administrated in this way to minimize their undesired side effects while achieving their anti-diabetic function.”
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This treatment could potentially offer a non-invasive alternative to liposuction and help rid people of undesired fat, but Qiang believes the more important use of this method will be to reduce the health risks associated with obesity. He also believes the skin patches could be on the market relatively soon and may even be available over-the-counter.
“We don’t think it will take long to provide this patch option to treat love handles in humans,” Qiang said. “We are very optimistic to make it happen soon as an over-the-counter option.”
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