Porky primates may help hefty humans slim down
(CBS) What do skinny monkeys have to say about fighting flab in humans? Quite a lot, as it turns out.
In a recent study, cancer researchers tested an experimental drug on plump primates and saw they lost a huge amount of weight. The researchers hope it can soon become a safe and effective weight loss drug for humans.
"It is incredibly exciting, a dream coming true in slow motion," study co-author Dr. Wadih Arap, a professor of medicine and experimental diagnostic imaging at Houston's University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, in Houston, told MSNBC.
For the study, researchers gave obese rhesus monkeys the drug adipotide for four weeks. The monkeys shed 11 percent of their body weight, 27 percent of their body fat, and reduced their BMIs and waistlines. Monkeys that didn't receive the drug saw no reductions in any of these areas.
Previous attempts at obesity drugs have tried to suppress appetite or beef up metabolism, but those drugs haven't gone anywhere because of toxic side effects. Adipotide contains a "homing agent" that targets and destroys fat tissue's blood supply. By destroying fat tissue's blood vessels, the fat cells are reabsorbed and metabolized in the body.
The results confirm an earlier study that showed the drug helped obese mice lose 30 percent of their body weight, but that wasn't enough to convince researchers compared to this study.
"All rodent models of obesity are faulty because their metabolism and central nervous system control of appetite and satiety are very different from primates, including humans," study author Dr. Renata Pasqualini, professor of medicine at MD Anderson, said in a written statement. "We're greatly encouraged to see substantial weight loss in a primate model of obesity that closely matches the human condition."
Speaking of humans, primates are prone to some of the same obesity-related diseases as humans, namely metabolic syndrome - the precursor to type 2 diabetes. Monkeys treated with adipotide became more resistant to insulin, which suggests another way to fight the disease.
Next, the researchers plan to test 28 days' worth of adipotide injections on obese prostate cancer patients. Obesity is not only a major risk factor for several types of cancer, including breast and colon, but obese patients do much worse with cancer surgery, radiation, and chemo, the authors said.
"The question is, will their prostate cancer become better if we can reduce their body weight and the associated health risks," said study co-author Dr. Wadih Arap, also a professor at MD Anderson.
The study is published in the Nov. 9 issue of Science Translational Medicine.
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