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Newly Discovered Hormone Could Fight Obesity Someday

Jan 12th, 2012

fight obesityScientists at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute have recently discovered a hormone naturally found in muscle cells. The hormone activates the calorie-burning benefits of exercise and may be potentially used to fight obesity.

The hormone known as irisin increases during periods of intense physical activity and converts white fat into brown fat, a substance that generates body heat. When scientists injected the hormone into obese, pre-diabetic mice, the animals showed weight loss and blood sugar level improvement.

This is good news for people who have tried and failed with different types of diet and exercises. The hormone can potentially speed up the process and might make it easier for those who want to achieve these goals after deciding a lifestyle change.

Research shows promising potential for obesity and diabetes treatments, disorders where patients are too weak to perform exercises may also benefit from it, according to Bruce Spiegelman, study author, cell biologist, and a professor at Harvard Medical School.

The compound is not intended to replace diet and exercise, according to Spiegelman. Irisin has the potential to increase the effects of proper diet and exercise, he added. However, irisin alone will not build muscles, since test show it doesn’t make them stronger, he said.

A version of irisin may be available for human testing in as little as two years.

Researchers started with the hypothesis that a substance or hormone must be responsible for increasing energy expenditure aside from exercise in tissues besides muscles. They have isolated the hormone in lab mice and human muscles from people engaged in endurance exercises.

Irisin seems to make white fat, the type which stores energy, act like brown fat, the type which burns energy. Brown fat was previously thought to be found only in infants.

During the study, researchers injected obese mice with irisin. In ten days, the mice showed improved blood sugar levels and small amount of weight loss. They also found no side effects or signs of toxicity.

The medical community is interested in finding different ways to stimulate brown fat or to convert white fat into brown fat, according to C. Ronald Kahn, an endocrinologist and professor at the Harvard Medical School. There are very little alternative options to address the obesity epidemic, which is fueling the incidence of type 2 diabetes, according to him.

Researchers are currently looking for ways to make the hormone more effective and last longer in the blood.


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