Researchers one step closer to finding fat-burning molecule that can help in weight loss without reduction in diet, muscle mass
Researchers in USA say that they have found a mitochondrial uncoupler molecule which can help reduce body weight without reducing food intake and muscle mass
As per the World Health Organisation (WHO) data for the year 2016, nearly 13 percent of the world’s population was affected by obesity. About 38 million children under the age of five were overweight or obese in 2019.
Long term obesity can make a person prone to various health conditions, including fatty liver disease, heart disease, infertility and mental health diseases.
Now, researchers at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), USA, say that they have found a mitochondrial uncoupler molecule called BAM15, which has been seen to help reduce body weight without reducing food intake and muscle mass in mice.
The findings of the study have been published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Communications and is believed to hold promise for dealing with obesity.
Mitochondria is an organelle that is present inside every cell of the body. It produces energy (ATP) in the body through a process called electron transport chain (ETC) and is hence known as the powerhouse of the cell. ATP is called the energy currency of the body.
The ETC happens in the inner membrane of the mitochondria. Mitochondria have two membranes - inner and outer. To create energy/ATP, the mitochondria have to burn nutrients (which you acquire from food) and create a proton motive force (PMF) across its inner membrane. This PMF is generated due to the presence of a gradient of protons on either side of the inner membrane of mitochondria. Generally, the protons on the outside of the inner membrane are higher than those on the inside. To balance the gradient, the protons pass through the membrane to the inside of the mitochondria. Every time a proton passes through the membrane, the mitochondria use an enzyme called ATP-synthase to make new ATP.
Now, mitochondrial uncouplers (like BAM15) break down this proton gradient by bringing in more protons inside the mitochondria without the use of ATP-synthase. To bring back the balance and make new ATPs, the extra protons have to be pushed out of the mitochondria, for which the cell uses energy.
As the cells use more energy, your calorie intake and expenditure starts to get balanced. Consuming more than the exerted amount of calories is one of the main reasons for higher BMI and, in turn, overweight and obesity.
The plus sides
As per the study, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved many drugs to manage obesity so far. However, most of them target either the absorption of nutrients in the body or the person’s food intake. Also, these drugs have various side effects including but not limited to diarrhoea, bloating and gas. Some anti-obesity drugs were banned by the FDA due to their extreme side effects on the cardiovascular system.
BAM15 specifically targets the mitochondria and is effective when taken orally. It does not affect appetite or satiety and has been found to be safe in even high doses.
However, one thing that the researchers pointed out was that the half-life of BAM15 was short - 1.7 hours. The half-life of a drug refers to the time in which the amount of the said drug reduces to half in the blood of a person.
In a news release, Webster Santos, the lead author of the study and a faculty at the Department of Chemistry, at Virginia Tech, said that they might not use the same molecule for human studies but are looking for a similar molecule that can stay in the body for longer periods of time.
For more information, read our article on Weight loss.
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