New Patch Aims to Turn Energy-Storing Fats Into Energy-Burning Fats


Source: Nanyang Technological University

Summary: Researchers have developed an innovative approach – A micro-needle patch delivers drugs that are known to turn energy-storing white fat into energy-burning brown fat.


Obesity which results from an excessive accumulation of fat is a major health risk factor for various diseases such as heart disease, stroke and type-2 diabetes. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 1.9 billion adults in the world are overweight in 2016 with 650 million of them being obeseBrown fats are found in babies, and they help to keep the baby warm by burning energy. As humans grow older, the amount of brown fats lessens and is replaced with visceral white fats. To overcome the problem of obesity, researchers from the Nanyang Technological University have developed an innovative approach – A micro-needle patch transdermally delivers drugs that are known to turn energy-storing white fat into energy-burning brown fat. This approach reduced weight gain in mice on a high-fat diet and their fat mass by more than 30% over 4 weeks. The study findings were published in the journal Small Methods.

Skin patches delivers drugs  to turn energy-storing white fat into energy-burning brown fat.

Prof Chen Peng (left) holding the new microneedle fat burning patch with Asst Prof Xu Chenjie. Credit: Nanyang Technological University

This new type of skin patch contains 100s of micro-needles, each thinner than a human hair, which are loaded with the drug, Beta-3 adrenergic receptor agonist or another drug, thyroid hormone T3 triiodothyronine. When the patch is pressed into the skin for about 2 minutes, these micro-needles become embedded in the skin and detach from the patch, which can then be removed. As the needles degrade, the drug molecules then slowly diffuse to the energy-storing white fat underneath the skin layer, turning it into energy-burning brown fats. The white fats started browning in 5 days, which helped to increase the energy expenditure of the mice, leading to a reduction in body fat gain. The treated mice also had significantly lower blood cholesterol and fatty acids levels compared to the untreated mice. The team estimates that their prototype patch had a material cost of about S$5 (US$3.50) to make. The research team has received keen interest from biotechnology companies and is looking to partner clinician scientists to further their research.

Assoc. Prof. Melvin Leow said, “These data should encourage Phase I Clinical studies in humans to translate these basic science findings to the bedside, with the hope that these microneedle patches may be developed into an established cost-effective modality for the prevention or treatment of obesity in the near future.”


More Information: Aung Than et al, “Transdermal Delivery of Anti-Obesity Compounds to Subcutaneous Adipose Tissue with Polymeric Microneedle Patches, Small Methods (2017). DOI: 10.1002/smtd.201700269


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