KEY POINTS

  • Obesity affects over 40% of Americans
  • Several anti-obesity treatments including diet, exercise surgery, and pharmacotherapies have failed to reverse its incidence
  • Researchers at Virginia tech target obesity with a pharmacotherapeutic approach that reduces caloric efficiency by mitochondrial uncoupling
  • The newly identified molecule increases nutrient oxidation and lowers body fat mass without altering food intake

Virginia Tech researchers have discovered a new molecule that can increase the amount of fat a person burns, without causing muscle loss or influencing the amount of food consumed. This groundbreaking discovery could pave the way toward a highly-effective obesity treatment.

And since the newly discovered molecule also reduces a person’s insulin resistance, it can be used to treat type-2 diabetes.

BAM15 -- the magic molecule

It is a small mitochondrial uncoupler that reduces body fat and insulin resistance, which are important risk factors for obesity, type-2 diabetes and the other associated conditions including metabolic dysfunction and fatty liver disease.

What is a mitochondrial uncoupler?

The mitochondria or "powerhouses of the cell' are the organelle that generates "ATP" molecules that serve as the energy currency of the cell, powers body movement, and vital for several other biologicals processes.

Mitochondrial uncouplers are those molecules that transport protons across the inner membranes of the mitochondria. They short-circuit the normal pathway of oxidative ATP synthesis driven by proton flow and during this process, calories are lost as heat. And that is how mitochondrial uncouplers aid fat-burning an weight loss.

How does BAM15 work?

BAM15 causes the cells to burn more energy than is necessary, resulting in fat loss.

“Mitochondrial uncouplers are small molecules that go to the mitochondria to help the cells respire more. Effectively, they change metabolism in the cell so that we burn more calories without doing any exercise,” Webster Santos, an affiliated member of the Fralin Life Sciences Institute and the Virginia Tech Center for Drug Discovery told Slash Gear.

Several anti-fat drugs, in the past, would instruct the body to stop eating. But in most cases, the users would rebound and end up eating more. But as far as BAM15 is concerned, in animal studies, the mice ate the same amount as the control group and still lost fat mass.

Generally, mitochondrial uncouplers also cause an increase in body temperature. But, in BAM15, the researchers found no change in body temperature of the mice subjects.

But the only concern is the half-life of the newly found fat-burning molecule. The half-life or the duration in which a drug is still effective is relatively short in the mouse model.

However, the researchers opine that even as BAM15 might be really promising in mouse models, the drug won't necessarily be successful in human beings.

"We are essentially looking for roughly the same type of molecule, but it needs to stay in the body for longer to have an effect. We are tweaking the chemical structure of the compound. So far, we have made several hundred molecules related to this," News Medical quoted Santos.

obesity-drug Despite advances in the efficacy of diet drugs, a third of U.S. insurance companies do not cover anti-obesity drugs. Photo: Creative Commons/Pixabay