Harshini Neelakantan

Indian American researcher Harshini Neelakantan of the University of Texas Medical Branch has led a team that has developed a new drug that will shrink fat without suppressing an appetite. (LinkedIn photo)

NEW YORK — If you want to shed some weight without starving yourself, then there may be a sigh of relief for you as a group of researchers, led by Indian American Harshini Neelakantan, are developing a new drug that shrinks your fat without suppressing appetite.

The new drug selectively shrinks excess fat by increasing fat cell metabolism, according to the researchers.

The research team discovered a molecule that blocks metabolic brake from operating in obese white fat cells. By blocking this metabolic brake, they were able to increase the metabolism within white fat cells.

“Blocking the action of the fat cell brake provides an innovative 'fat' specific mechanism to increase cell metabolism and reduce the size of white fat deposits, thereby treating a root cause of obesity and related metabolic diseases,” said University of Texas Medical Branch researcher Neelakantan, the lead author of the study.

According to a recent study, published in the journal Biochemical Pharmacology, the drug significantly reduces body weight and blood cholesterol levels without lowering food intake in obese mice.

In the study, mice were fed a high-fat diet until they became obese and then received either the drug or a placebo.

Following 10 days of drug treatment, researchers found that the obese mice receiving the actual drug lost more than 7 percent of their total body weight and their white fat tissue mass and cell size decreased by 30 percent compared with the placebo group.

In addition, blood cholesterol in drug-treated mice were lowered to normal levels, similar to those of non-obese mice.

On the contrary, placebo-treated mice continued to accumulate white fat and gain weight throughout the study.

Interestingly, mice in both the drug-treated and placebo groups consumed the same amount of food during the course of the study period, showing that the fat loss was not due to appetite suppression.

“These initial results are encouraging and support further development of this technology as a new and more effective approach to combating metabolic diseases,” Neelakantan noted.

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