US researchers have developed a drug that can mimic the symptoms our body feels after having ingested a copious meal. Recently, the “imaginary meal” drug has been successfully tested on obese mice with no side effects.
Researchers at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, fed a group of obese mice with fexaramine on a daily basis for five weeks. Scientists noticed that the drug wasn’t absorbed into the mice’s bloodstreams. It remained active only in the gut. Previous fexaramine-based drugs led to side effects because they entered the circulatory system.
The new drug mimics the symptoms our body experience after eating a lot of food without the need to actually eat that much. Among those symptoms, scientists include sense of fullness, body fat burning, reducing of cholesterol and blood sugar levels and a general acceleration of metabolism which leads to painless weight loss.
The new findings were published Monday in the journal Nature Medicine.
The mice used in the study lost body fat, had lower cholesterol levels and had their white fat transformed into brown fat which is healthier and gets instantly turned by the body into energy.
This pill is like an imaginary meal. It sends out the same signals that normally happen when you eat a lot of food,”
said Ronald Evans, lead author of the study and gene expert at the Salk Institute.
It seems that fexaramine stimulates farnesoid X receptor (FXR) to trigger bile acid production, food digestion and fat burning processes, although no food was ingested.
Pharma companies previously developed drugs designed to stimulate FXR with severe side effects because they went into the bloodstream. Salk Institute researchers now hope that the new imaginary meal weight-loss drug is a lot safer and more effective since it doesn’t have such inconvenient.
It turns out that when we administer this orally, it only acts in the gut. We are hijacking the natural food signal in the body to trick it into burning calories and lower systemic glucose levels,”
Michael Downes, one of the Salk Institute researchers and co-author of the study, said.
Researchers also explained that our sense of ‘fullness’ after meals is generated by a set of hormones produced by cells located in our gut. These cells analyze the nutritional value of the ingested food. The new drug is designed to trick those cells into believing that we already have had a full meal. That could lead to reduced food intake and safe weight loss.
However, since human and mouse metabolism differ, more testing is required. So, the new drug is expected to be available for humans in the next two to three years.
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