Nicotine patches have been in circulation for years and help people who are trying to quit smoking. Now, weight loss patches are in the works and it could not be long before weight loss patches are commercially available. These patches are being developed by a team at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University.
These patches have hundreds of microneedles on the underside and are loaded with one of the two drugs: Beta-3 adrenergic receptor agonist or thyroid hormone T3 triiodothyronine.Both these drugs have been proved to reduce body fat by converting energy-storing white fat into energy-burning brown fat. However, these drugs have some serious side effects if they are taken via injections or orally.
This is where the weight loss patches come in. These patches were tested on mice and showed promising results. When these patches are pressed onto an overweight mouse for a couple of minutes, the microneedles, which are thinner in diameter than a human hair, break off from the patch and embed themselves in the skin. They are not harmful and dissolve slowly releasing the drugs inside them directing into the underlying layer of white fat. This white fat is converted into brown fat and is burned off the body.
In the lab tests, the mice were kept on a high-fat diet beforehand and the use of these patches decreased their fat mass by over 30% in just four weeks. Furthermore, these mice had significantly lower blood cholesterol and fatty acid levels when compared to a control group of mice.
“With the embedded microneedles in the skin of the mice, the surrounding fats started browning in five days, which helped to increase the energy expenditure of the mice, leading to a reduction in body fat gain,” says Asst Prof. Xu Chenjie, who led the research along with Prof. Chen Peng. “The amount of drugs we used in the patch is much less than those used in oral medication or an injected dose. This lowers the drug ingredient costs while our slow-release design minimizes its side effects.”
Losing weight might not be as daunting a task as it is today and might very well be solved by patches in the years to come.