A noninvasive alternative to liposuction might be available in the future. Researchers have developed a medicated skin patch that can burn off unwanted fat such as “love handles.” The researchers found that the medicated skin patch burns “love handles” better than liposuction.
Aside from the new device melting excess fat, it can also treat metabolic disorders like obesity and diabetes. How is this possible? Thanks to the brilliant minds of the researchers from Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and the University of North Carolina.
Special Patch Modifies Fat
According to the researchers, the skin patch turns energy-storing white fat into energy-burning brown fat locally while raising the body’s overall metabolism. Transforming an adult’s white fat into brown fat is a process known as browning.
In the experiment, the skin patch was used in mice. The key finding showed that mice with medicated drugs that promote browning had a 20 percent reduction in fat on the treated side compared to the untreated side. They also had significantly lower fasting blood glucose levels than untreated mice.
This new finding was confirmed by patch designer and study co-leader Li Qiang, assistant professor of pathology and cell biology at CUMC.
Qiang said, “There are several clinically available drugs that promote browning, but all must be given as pills or injections. This exposes the whole body to the drugs, which can lead to side effects such as stomach upset, weight gain, and bone fractures. Our skin patch appears to alleviate these complications by delivering most drugs directly to fat tissue.”
The study is titled, “Locally-Induced Adipose Tissue Browning by Microneedle Patch for Obesity Treatment.” The other contributors are: Yuqi Zhang (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC), Qiongming Liu (CUMC), Jicheng Yu (University of North Carolina and North Carolina State University), Shuangjiang Yu (University of North Carolina and Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Changchun, Jilin, China), and Jinqiang Wang (University of North Carolina).
The Study and Key Results
The researchers used drugs encased in nanoparticles, each roughly 250 nanometers (nm) in diameter – too small to be seen by the naked eye. The nanoparticles were loaded woth two compounds known to promote browning: rosiglitazone (Avandia) or beta-adrenergic receptor agonist (CL 316243) that works well in mice but not in humans. The nanoparticles are then loaded into a centimeter-square skin patch containing dozens of microscopic needles.
Obese mice were given two patches – one loaded with drug-containing nanoparticles and another without drugs – that were placed on either side of the lower abdomen.
Here are the results:
Tests in normal, lean mice revealed that treatment with either of the two drugs increased the animals’ oxygen consumption (a measure of overall metabolic activity) by about 20 percent compared to untreated controls.
Genetic analyses revealed that the treated side contained more genes associated with brown fat than on the untreated side, suggesting that the observed metabolic changes and fat reduction were due to an increase in browning in the treated mice.
Though the medicated patch has not been tested in humans, the researchers are optimistic that it is the first step in finding a noninvasive procedure to reduce fats.
Dr. Qiang said, “What’s much more important is that our patch may provide a safe and effective means of treating obesity and related metabolic disorders such as diabetes.”
In addition, the researchers are on a mission to develop drugs, or a combination of drugs, that work best to promote localized browning and increase overall metabolism.