An obesity drug that 'kills' fat cells

The Week

A new treatment helped corpulent monkeys shed 11 percent of their body weight in four short weeks. Coming to an infomercial near you?

Most weight-loss drugs help burn fat by speeding up metabolism, suppressing appetite, or both. But a new drug currently being tested on obese rhesus monkeys goes a step further: It reportedly "kills" fat cells. Researchers at the University of Texas think the drug could one day help fight obesity in humans. Here's what you should know:

What is this fat-killing drug?
The experimental drug is called Adipotide, and it works by targeting the cells found in white fat tissue, says Steven Reinberg at USA Today. Adipotide kills fat "by attaching itself to fat cells in the blood vessels and triggering a synthetic protein that causes the cell to die." Afterward, those dead cells are reabsorbed by the body and metabolized. 

And it made these fat monkeys skinny?
Skinnier, at least. In just four weeks, the obese monkeys lost 11 percent of their body weight. The monkeys also shed 27 percent of their abdominal fat, says Tim Barribeau at io9. Caveat: "Monkeys that were already thin didn't shed pounds at all, meaning it might only target extra weight, not the stuff we need to survive."

Would this work on humans?
It's promising. Usually, fat burning drugs are tested on mice. Researchers believe this research is particularly "relevant because it was done with primates," says Jennifer Booton at Fox Business. Plus, the fatter monkeys in the study had grown portly thanks to their own overeating and lack of exercise — just like many obese humans.

Sources: Fox Business, io9USA Today

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