Washington, Jan 6 (IANS) Researchers from the California-based Salk Institute for Biological Studies have developed an entirely new type of pill that tricks the body into thinking it has consumed calories, causing it to burn fat.
The compound effectively stopped weight gain, lowered cholesterol, controlled blood sugar and minimised inflammation in mice, making it an excellent candidate for a rapid transition into human clinical trials.
Unlike most diet pills on the market, this new pill called fexaramine does not dissolve into the blood like appetite suppressants or caffeine-based diet drugs, but remains in the intestines, causing fewer side effects.
“This pill is like an imaginary meal. It sends out the same signals that normally happen when you eat a lot of food, so the body starts clearing out space to store it. But there are no calories and no change in appetite,” said Ronald Evans, director of the Salk Institute’s Gene Expression Laboratory in the US.
Evans’ laboratory has spent nearly two decades studying the farensoid X receptor (FXR), a protein that plays a role in how the body releases bile acids from the liver, digests food and stores fats and sugars.
The human body turns on FXR at the beginning of a meal to prepare for an influx of food.
Evans and his colleagues developed the fexaramine compound by departing from the drug scaffold that most pharmaceutical companies typically pursue when targeting FXR.
When the group gave obese mice a daily pill of fexaramine for five weeks, the mice stopped gaining weight, lost fat and had lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels than untreated mice.
In addition, the mice had a rise in body temperature – that signals the ramping up of metabolism – and some deposits of white fat in their bodies converted into a healthier, energy-burning beige form of the tissue.
Since fexaramine does not reach the bloodstream, it is also likely safer in humans than other FXR-targeting drugs, the researchers said.
The study appeared in the journal Nature Medicine.