Artificial Weight Loss Hormones

A chemical that works like a multitasking hormone in mice not only controls glucose processing in the body but could reduce body weight, according to a report published today in Nature Chemical Biology. The study may ultimately have an effect on treating obesity and diabetes.

Glucagon and glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) are natural hormones that regulate glucose metabolism. They have a similar chemical structure but differ in the precise amino acid sequence and so biological function. Previous studies report that glucagon and GLP-1 can suppress appetite or cause weight loss by increasing the body’s calorie usage.

Now, Richard DiMarchi and colleagues have combined the two hormones to create a hormone analog that activates receptors for both glucagon and GLP-1. The researchers found that a single injection of the best synthetic analogue in mice decreased their body weight by 25% and fat mass by 42% after one week, with greater effect with repeated treatment.

A lot more research is now need to verify the effect. Indeed, it may turn out to have no effect in people or have long-term detrimental effects on metabolism. It will be several years before a hormone analog like this might be tested on people. Nevertheless, the results point to a new approach for the treatment of obesity and adult-onset diabetes at some point in the future.

Research Blogging IconJonathan W Day, Nickki Ottaway, James T Patterson, Vasily Gelfanov, David Smiley, Jas Gidda, Hannes Findeisen, Dennis Bruemmer, Daniel J Drucker, Nilika Chaudhary, Jenna Holland, Jazzminn Hembree, William Abplanalp, Erin Grant , Jennifer Ruehl , Hilary Wi (2009). A new glucagon and GLP-1 co-agonist eliminates obesity in rodents Nature Chemical Biology