Hormone-Based Drug Drops Rats’ Weight by a Quarter in Just Seven Days-Precursor to a Human Weight Loss Drug?

For obese people, who often go on to develop type 2 diabetes, the magic bullet would be a drug that causes weight loss without surgery or the misery of drastic diets that often fail. So, news about a drug that produced dramatically slimmer lab rats in just a week should make them-and people with diabetes-perk up.

Researchers from Indiana University combined two hormones into the drug, which decreased the rats’ body weight by 25 percent and their fat mass by 42 percent in just one week, after just one injection. The drug worked to suppress appetite and increase metabolism, the two most common and successful approaches to treating obesity.

But before obese people can break out the bubbly, there’s the matter of human testing, which could take years, and the possibility that what works for rats won’t work for humans. Experts looking at the Indiana University results recall the stir in the mid-1990s when leptin, a recently discovered hormone, was found to suppress appetites in mice. Alas, when it came time to test it in humans, leptin had no effect.

Still, the lab rat results are one more step on a road that is leading toward drug-based therapies for obesity. Australian researchers recently found, for example, that fat cells produce a protein that increases insulin resistance. Their discovery has opened the door to development of a drug that suppresses the protein, thus staving off the onset of type 2 diabetes.