The human body has different types of fats. White fat is energy-storing fat and excess amounts can lead to obesity. However, brown fat is calorie burning fat. Researchers have developed a microneedle patch that can convert white fat to brown fat. This patch is used for the treatment of obesity, diabetes, and other endocrine disorders.
Scientists from Columbia University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill carried out this research. NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences and National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases supports this research. This research appears in ACS Nano.
What did they do?
Researchers designed a skin patch that contains microneedles. This patch can switch on the browning process when placed in the target region. Scientists designed this patch with 121 cones shaped polymer. It contained Nanoparticles encapsulating the drug.
These microneedles penetrated the skin portion they were placed on. Nanoparticles then gradually released the drug into the white fat cells. It delivers the drug directly on site and can minimize the chances of side effects.
Skin patch was a little bigger than an eraser. Scientists first tested it on abdominal fat pads of three normal groups of mice. The first group of mice received a microneedle skin patch without any drug inside it. They treated the second patch with rosiglitazone (it is a diabetes drug).
They gave the third group a microneedle skin patch containing CL 316243. In the second and third group of mice, white fat cells shrunk in size and beige fat cells started appearing.
Some chemical compounds have a browning effect on white fat cells. They turn the white fat cells in the body to beige colored fat cells. These beige fat cells mimic some of the characteristics of brown fat and burn calories.
Unfortunately, these chemical compounds have side effects in other portions of the body. However, directly delivering the drugs to white fat cells may reduce the side effects. Some previous studies have shown that in the body, Nanoparticles can deliver drugs at the exact location. Nanoparticles are microscopic particles and are used in various study fields.
What did they find?
Microneedle skin patch induced drugs causing browning of white fat cells and enhancing of metabolism in mice. After this experiment, scientists treated obese mice with skin patch for four weeks. In addition to browning, they also observed increased expression of brown fat genes. In these mice, fat stores also decreased in size and metabolism enhanced.
How is this research helpful?
There are many drugs available that promote browning. However, experts have to inject them to the patients or make them swallow the drugs. This leads to the whole body’s exposure to the drug. Consequently, there are some side effects such as upset stomach, nausea, and irritation, etc.
Microneedle skin patch delivers the drug directly on site. This way, experts can prevent complications. This technique holds a promising future, but currently, scientists are not testing it on humans.