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Home » Biotech for Non-Scientist » Combatting Obesity: Overcoming the Interplay of Factors

Combatting Obesity: Overcoming the Interplay of Factors

by | Dec 1, 2023 | Biotech for Non-Scientist

Obesity is far more complex than the chronic consumption of too many calories. Unraveling obesity’s origins and finding effective therapies requires navigating a complex interplay of factors, shaping global efforts to combat this health issue. 

Why it Matters

Obesity is a chronic disease characterized by excessive body fat.  The obesity epidemic affects 40 percent of adults and nearly 20 percent of children in the U.S.  

Obesity stems from a combination of lifestyle choices and genetics.  Diseases associated with obesity include: 

There is currently no cure for obesity.

Zoom In

Until recently, obesity medications were designed to limit a person’s food consumption rather than correcting the pathological changes that occur with obesity, including inflammation, insuline resistance, and fat accumulation in organs.

  • Some chemical messengers, called adipokines, promote inflammation in fat (adipose) tissue during weight gain.
  • Chronic inflammation of fat tissue promotes type 2 diabetes by increasing insulin resistance and compromising the body’s ability to regulate blood glucose levels.  
  • Excess fat tissue uses oxygen faster than the body can supply it, releasing additional inflammatory adipokines and exacerbating insulin resistance.
  • Adipocytes (fat cells) can accumulate in organs when the body can no longer store additional fat.  This interferes with insulin production in the pancreas and may lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Applied Science

Drugs designed to mimic the effect of adipokines and lower inflammation have shown promise as potential obesity therapies.  

  • AdipoRon stimulates the adiponectin receptor to lower insulin sensitivity, improve abnormal distribution of adipocytes, and increase glucose intolerance.  
  • TNF inhibitors inhibit TNF, a key driver of inflammation. TNF inhibitors Remicade and Enbrel may help with glycemic control and insulin resistance
  • IL-1 beta inhibitors inhibit the proinflammatory IL-1 beta signaling molecule. Two IL-1 beta inhibitors, Anakinra and Ilaris, are being investigated to combat obesity, type 2 diabetes, and insulin resistance.

Around the Corner

There are two types of fat tissue—white and brown. White fat stores energy in big, oily droplets throughout the body, while brown contains smaller droplets and high amounts of mitochondria that burn energy as calories. Converting white adipose tissue to brown adipose tissue is an emerging area in obesity research and therapy.

Cocktail Fodder

Many patients have experienced significant weight loss with the drug Wegovy (semaglutide), which lowers blood sugar levels, regulates insulin, and decreases appetite by imitating glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). FDA approval of Zepbound (tirzepatide) for obesity ushers in the first competitor for Wegovy, which will drive down high medication prices for patients that require GLP-1 imitators or glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP)/GLP-1 receptor activators for weight management.

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