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Finding a successful treatment for obesity would be a Holy Grail for scientists. Most obese and overweight people are unable to shed pounds and keep them off with dieting and exercise.
And despite plenty of effort, pharmaceutical companies have been unable to develop a medicine that helps people safely lose and keep off a significant amount of weight. Any drug that could do that would be a guaranteed blockbuster.
Aronne said the findings likely would renew interest in the area of brown fat among drugmakers; at least one briefly studied a treatment in lab animals several years ago.
So how could researchers use these basic findings about good fat to eventually come up with a weight-loss medication?
One possibility would be a pill to stimulate a specific protein to release more energy from the fat cells in the form of heat rather than storing it for future energy needs, Aronne and Celi said.
Finding a way to increase the amount of brown fat in a person would be another strategy. Researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston have been injecting certain genes into mice to try to produce brown fat cells instead of white ones.
Celi said researchers also could try to make a pill that stimulates nerve endings inside brown fat to make it burn more calories.
Or overweight people could simply try turning down the thermostat to see if it makes them burn more energy and lose weight -- a strategy that Celi and researchers are testing in a small study that could produce results by the end of the year.
On the Net:
New England Journal: http://www.nejm.org/
Obesity Society: http://www.obesity.org/
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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