A Breakthrough in the Potential Treatment of Obesity

A Breakthrough in the Potential Treatment of Obesity

By Shakir Sayani

It should not come as a surprise that there has been a global increase in the rates of obesity. Although there are numerous factors that have led to the spread of this epidemic, some of the more important reasons have been attributed to poor dietary choices and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle. To combat obesity, we as a society have taken a number of desperate measures, of which have included taking dietary supplements, which sometimes offer nothing but false hope and promise. Others have taken a more drastic approach and explored surgical interventions like gastric bypass or liposuction as feasible options.

However, there must be a safer, more effective and potent anti-obesity agent that can alleviate the rate of this rising epidemic. Now, new research performed in the laboratory of Umit Ozcan at Harvard Medical School is providing renewed hope in the battle to treat obesity. Their work has revealed that a molecule, known as celastrol, which is a natural compound found in the thunder god vine plant, can be used as an effective agent in the treatment of obesity.

So, what exactly does celastrol do that makes it a breakthrough molecule in the fight against obesity? In order to address this question, the Harvard Medical School-based research team utilized obese laboratory mice, which have high levels of body fat and mass. The researchers orally administered celastrol in conjunction with the satiety hormone, leptin. Leptin was discovered over two decades ago and is an important hormone that allows our bodies to feel full after a meal. Obese mice, similar to the ones utilized in the present study, have developed a natural resistance to leptin and therefore cannot sense feeling full. Remarkably, when the researchers administered a dose of celastrol and leptin and tracked the weight of the obese mice for several weeks, they discovered that the mice exhibited a considerable decrease in fat levels. This led the team to conclude that celastrol must be acting in a manner that it is able to act as a potent leptin sensitizer.

It turned out that this was indeed the case. Upon further experimentation, the investigators showed that celastrol functions in conjunction with leptin by activating a key signalling pathway in the brain’s hypothalamus region known as the Leptin Receptor–Stat3 pathway.

It should also be noted that administering celastrol in the laboratory mice utilized in the study did not cause an adverse toxic effect. This raises an important question: can celastrol be approved one day as an important drug in the treatment of obesity? Hopefully, the momentum of the present study will be used to further unearth the therapeutic benefits of celastrol.

The present study was published in the May 21st issue of the journal Cell.

Photo courtesy of www.pixabay.com

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