Scientists are one step closer to developing the holy grail of weight-loss drugs — a pill that makes users slim without dieting or exercising.
They have trialed an early version of the treatment — currently as an injectable — in mice who were put on a junk food plan that mimicked the worst of Western diets.
Rodents given the shot did not gain weight even though they were eating food high in fat, sugar and calories, while their risk of health problems linked to poor diets also went down.
The drug’s makers, from the University of Texas, told DailyMail.com today they are developing a pill version of the drug and hope to start human trials this year.
Scientists say they may have developed a drug that could help you lose weight via an injection
The drug — named CPACC — is a small molecule that works by inhibiting the uptake of magnesium by mitochondria in cells.
The team is now looking to patent the drug, but warn it may still be years before it reaches pharmacies.
Dr Madesh Muniswamy, a cardiologist at the University of Texas who led the research, told DailyMail.com: ‘Our next step is to conduct some pharmacokinetics prior to human pilot studies.
‘We did not see any adverse effects. In particular, liver and cardiac functions were normal after administration of the drug twice a week by injection.
‘We are seeking volunteers and private funding to conduct such trials. But this will be in the next six months to a year.’
Mice eating a high-fat western diet were administered the ‘wonder drug’ once every three days for six days.
As well as maintaining their weight, the researchers also suggested the mice may have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke and fatty liver disease.
They said that this was because the drug was preventing obesity, which is a key risk factor for these conditions.
Mitochondria are the powerhouses of cells and work by producing energy to drive their chemical reaction.
A key part of this process is magnesium, which helps to reduce damage to mitochondria and drive their energy-producing reactions.
But researchers say that when there is too much of the element in the cells it can actually ‘put the brakes on’ energy production.
To test whether reducing mitochondrial magnesium levels can cause weight loss, researchers initially gene-edited mice to make it harder for mitochondria to take up magnesium.
They found that even when the tweaked mice were on a high-fat western diet they still remained slim.
To mimic this result, researchers then designed a drug that could block the uptake of magnesium by mitochondria.
In the latest study, published in Cell Reports, mice were fed on a high-fat western diet — composed of 40 percent fat — or a chow diet — 17 percent fat.
After 20 weeks on the diet, mice were then administered either the drug or a placebo.
These were given every three days for another six weeks.
Results showed that mice who got the injections did not gain weight even while on the high-fat western diet.
Dr Muniswamy said that reducing the amount of magnesium in mitochondria had removed the brakes from them.
This meant they were able to manufacture and, hence, burn more energy, helping people to avoid weight gain.
We are seeking volunteers and private funding to conduct such trials. But this will be in the next six months to a year.’
‘They all become slim.’
He added: ‘A drug that can reduce the risk of cardiometabolic diseases such as heart attack and stroke, and also reduce the incidence of liver cancer, which can follow fatty liver disease, will make a huge impact.
‘We will continue its development.’
OBESITY: ADULTS WITH A BMI OVER 30 ARE SEEN AS OBESE
Obesity is defined as an adult having a BMI of 30 or over.
A healthy person’s BMI – calculated by dividing weight in kg by height in metres, and the answer by the height again – is between 18.5 and 24.9.
Among children, obesity is defined as being in the 95th percentile.
Percentiles compare youngsters to others their same age.
For example, if a three-month-old is in the 40th percentile for weight, that means that 40 per cent of three-month-olds weigh the same or less than that baby.
Around 58 per cent of women and 68 per cent of men in the UK are overweight or obese.
The condition costs the NHS around £6.1billion, out of its approximate £124.7 billion budget, every year.
This is due to obesity increasing a person’s risk of a number of life-threatening conditions.
Such conditions include type 2 diabetes, which can cause kidney disease, blindness and even limb amputations.
Research suggests that at least one in six hospital beds in the UK are taken up by a diabetes patient.
Obesity also raises the risk of heart disease, which kills 315,000 people every year in the UK – making it the number one cause of death.
Carrying dangerous amounts of weight has also been linked to 12 different cancers.
This includes breast, which affects one in eight women at some point in their lives.
Among children, research suggests that 70 per cent of obese youngsters have high blood pressure or raised cholesterol, which puts them at risk of heart disease.
Obese children are also significantly more likely to become obese adults.
And if children are overweight, their obesity in adulthood is often more severe.
As many as one in five children start school in the UK being overweight or obese, which rises to one in three by the time they turn 10.