Health Care

Could a skin patch melt away unwanted fat?

Could a skin patch melt away unwanted fat?

USA researchers have developed a skin patch that can melt fat in mice, and future tests will reveal whether it could treat obesity and diabetes in people, a study said on Friday. They hope it can be used one day to treat metabolic disorders such as obesity. In experiments on obese mice, researchers from Columbia University Medical Center and the University of North Carolina have successfully used such patches to slim the creatures down. It uses a technology that turns white fat into brown fat which is capable of burning energy. Human trials haven't happened, though, and we're likely a long way from seeing these types of patches prescribed to patients. White fat stores excess energy in large droplets of triglyceride. We're all born with higher levels of brown fat to protect us from the cold, but we lose it as we age (unless we live in colder climates).

The development comes after years of research into finding ways that an adult's white fat could be converted to the brown fat, which can be more easily burned off.

Still, the research could mean that someday a patch could be applied to human bodies to burn off pockets of unwanted fat such as "love handles".

It can also help treat metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes.

Existing treatments that promote browning must be given as pills or injections, which expose the whole body to the drugs, causing stomach upsets, weight gain and bone fractures. Our skin patch appears to alleviate these complications by delivering most drugs directly to fat tissue'. When applied to skin, the needles painlessly pierce the skin and release the drug from nanoparticles into the underlying tissue.

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By differentiate, the skin patch goes around these entanglements by conveying the medications specifically to the locale required, for example, the territories of tissue over the hips.

"The nanoparticles were created to effectively hold the drug and then gradually collapse, releasing it into nearby tissue in a sustained way instead of spreading the drug throughout the body quickly", said Zhen Gu, associate professor at North Carolina State University in the US. The drugs are put into nanoparticles, microscopic containers exponentially thinner than a strand of hair. These patches were replaced with new ones once every three days, for a total of four weeks. Control mice were also given two empty patches. The treated sides showed 20 percent fat reduction compared with the untreated side.

Treatment with either of the two drugs also increased the animals' oxygen consumption (a measure of overall metabolic activity) by about 20 percent compared to untreated controls.

Upon conducting genetic analyses, the researchers likewise found that the treated side had more genes linked to brown fat, suggesting that the "melting" of fat can be attributed to the browning process.