A Pill to lose weight? New Drug Activates Brown Fat

New Drug Activates Brown Fat

Winter isn’t only the season when we catch the flu, it’s also common to add a few pounds over the winter. Now a new study have found a way to burn extra calories even when at rest, how? By using a drug called mirabegron. The Drug activates brown fat which increases resting metabolism burning extra calories.

In our bodies we have two types of fat; white fat store calories for use during periods of starvation, thankfully dying of hunger is more rare now than thousands of years ago. The other type of fat is the subject of intense research, brown fat. Brown fat increases resting metabolism generating heat. Finding a way to activate this type of fat could let you drop pounds easily. A new claims to have accomplished just that using a drug approved for treatment of overactive bladders.

FDA Approved Drug Activates Brown Fat

The findings are published in the January 6 issue of Cell Metabolism.

Earlier studies on brown fat have found how to activate brown fat cells, by binding a receptor on the cells’ surface called the β3-adrenergic receptor. These receptors are not only found on brown fat cells there also present on many other tissues, one being bladder cells. Armed with this knowledge researchers discovered that a recently approved drug, mirabegron, actually targets this specific receptor. Though this drug activates the β3-adrenergic receptor for another unrelated purpose, to treat an overactive bladder. Could mirabegron also be used to increase resting metabolism?

12 men were enrolled in the study given 200 mg of the drug mirabegron, four times the concentration used to treat bladder issues. The drug worked, increasing the resting metabolism of the men enrolled by an average of 203 calories per day. PET scans confirmed that the drug activates brown fat and even though the dose was high there were no adverse effect resulting from it. Though it should be mentioned that the study was conducted on people in their early twenties.

Drug Activates Brown Fat

PET scan highlighting active deposits of brown fat

“Brown adipose tissue, or brown fat, produces β3-adrenergic receptor at levels higher than nearly every other organ in the body. We showed that a one-time dose of the drug mirabegron stimulates human brown adipose tissue so that it consumes glucose and burns calories,” said lead author Dr. Aaron Cypess

Activating the β3-adrenergic receptor might actually be the next step towards a new treatment against obesity.

[pullquote]”Prior to our work, the only known way to activate human brown adipose tissue was through cold exposure. While inexpensive, this approach is generally not well tolerated over the long-term, and there is significant variability in people’s responses,In addition, once the cold exposure is removed, the effect usually turns off rather quickly.” commented Dr. Cypess[/pullquote]

Earlier studies have found ways to convert white fat into brown fat, something that would further enhance mirabegron’s calorie burning effect. Finding new purposes for already approved drugs is always exciting and treating obesity by raising resting metabolism seem like a worthwhile approach. Further studies to test long-term safety and maybe finding a way to increase the calories “burned” is needed before this drug is usable as a weight-loss treatment.

Image credit: Next TwentyEight via flickr.com, CC BY 2.0

Aaron M. Cypess et al. (2015). Activation of Human Brown Adipose Tissue by a β3-Adrenergic Receptor Agonist Cell Metabolism DOI: http://dx..org/10.1016/j.cmet.2014.12.009