Delivering fat-shrinking drug through a tiny patch

By Karin Lillis • Published: November 13th, 2017
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

What if a medicated skin patch could dissolve those pesky love handles? Researchers from Columbia University Medical Center and the University of North Carolina believe that nanotechnology may one day be the answer.

Using a small patch that delivered a fat-shrinking drug via microneedles, the team said that, in a mouse model, they successfully converted unhealthy white fat to more healthy brown fat.

White fat — also known as white adipose tissue — stores energy in the body. When we consume too many calories, it can lead to a buildup up of this type of tissue. In contrast, brown fat — brown adipose tissue — is thought to generate heat by burning calories. Through a process known as “browning,” white fat is converted to brown fat when the body is exposed to cold temperatures.

The experiment involved placing 1-centimeter patches on either side of the lower abdomen in two groups of mice — one with a patch imbued with one of two fat-reducing medications and a second without. Compared with the control group, mice exposed to the drug experienced a 20 percent reduction in fat and lower fasting blood glucose levels.

The team noted there are currently medications that can spur that process, but they are administered via pill or injection and leave patients susceptible to side effects like stomach upset, weight gain and bone fractures. In contrast, the skin patch delivers the medication through a more direct route and decreases the risks of adverse effects.

The researchers said they hoped the findings might lead to noninvasive or nonsurgical ways to shrink those jiggly love handles.