An injection that decreases appetite helps obese monkeys slim down fast and cuts their risk of diabetes.
A protein called GDF15 naturally regulates body weight in humans and other animals. Several teams have tried developing GDF15 as an obesity treatment, but it breaks down too quickly in the bloodstream to work.
Now a team led by Murielle Véniant at pharmaceutical company Amgen has found a way to make the protein last longer in the body, by adding an antibody fragment to it.
The team found that this hybrid protein caused obese monkeys to eat about 40 per cent less. When given weekly injections, the animals lost 10 per cent of their body weight over six weeks. Their glucose tolerance also improved, making them less likely to develop type 2 diabetes (Xiong et al., 2017).
In comparison, the five obesity medications currently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for long-term weight management help patients lose an average of 7 to 12 per cent of their body weight over the course of a year. Bariatric surgery – the gold standard for weight loss – usually results in 20 to 30 per cent weight loss in obese patients in the first year, but is expensive and can have complications and side effects.
Clinical trials will be needed to determine how well the new treatment works in people, and if it causes side effects like nausea, says Véniant.
New Scientist (2017) Hunger-Blocking Injection Causes Rapid Weight Loss. New Scientist. 28 October 2017, pp.17.
Xiong, Y., Walker, K., Min, X., Hale, C., Tran, T., Komorowski, R., Yang, J., Davda, J., Nuanmanee, N., Kemp, D., Wang, X., Liu, H., Miller, S., Lee, K.J., Wang, Z. & Véniant, M.M. (2017) Long-acting MIC-1/GDF15 molecules to treat obesity: Evidence from mice to monkeys. Science Translational Medicine. 9(412), pp.e8732. DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aan8732.