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Skin patch melts fat in mice

17 September 2017

A patch that guarantees to burn off pockets of undesirable fat, for example, "love handles" is being produced, researchers have reported. When the patch is applied, the needles pierce the skin and slowly release the drugs into the tissue. While diet and exercise aren't able to "spot treat" fat - that is, eliminate it from just one part of the body - this micro-needle patch can. White fat stores excess energy in large droplets of triglyceride.

Newborns have a lot of brown fat, which protects against exposure to cold temperatures, but most is lost by adulthood.

The findings were published in ACS Nano. The patch uses nanotechnology to turn the energy-storing white fat in the body into brown fat that burns energy, as well as boost the body's metabolism.

The skin patch is a centimeter across, and contains dozens of tiny needles that have the nanoparticles of the drugs.

Image Credit: Eat this, not that!"Many people will no doubt be excited to learn that we may be able to offer a noninvasive alternative to liposuction for reducing love handles", said study co-author Li Qiang, assistant professor of pathology and cell biology at Columbia University Medical Center in NY. This causes side effects such as stomach upset, bone fractures and (ironically) weight gain.

By contrast, the skin patch circumvents these complications by delivering the drugs directly to the region needed, such as the areas of flesh above the hips. The system was designed by Zhen Gu, PhD, an associate professor of joint biomedical engineering at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University.

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To test the patch, researchers loaded them with two different drugs and applied them to obese mice (the concept of an obese mouse is amusing in and of itself), but only on one side. Each mouse was given two patches-one loaded with drug-containing nanoparticles and another with empty nanoparticles-that were placed on either side of the lower abdomen. For four weeks, new patches were applied every three days.

The new approach has been tested in obese mice and showed a 20 percent reduction in fat on the treated fat compared to fat that was untreated.

Treated mice "also had significantly lower fasting blood glucose levels than untreated mice". Additionally, when regular lean mice were treated, their metabolic activity increased by 20 percent. According to researchers, the treated side of mice showed more genes associated with brown fat if compared to the untreated sides, which leads to thinking that the patches accelerate the process of browning.

It also has promise as a treatment for metabolic disorders like diabetes and obesity.

The patch has not been tested in humans.

This new skin patch appears to have mastered the process of browning.

Skin patch melts fat in mice