Scientists Identify Metabolite That Switches ‘Bad’ Fat To ‘Good’ Fat

By: | October 20th, 2022

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Metabolism refers to the chemical (metabolic) processes that take place as our body converts foods and drinks into energy for growth and overall health.

In a discovery, Scripps Research and its drug development arm Calibr have found that metabolites could be potent molecules for treating severe diseases. Metabolites refer to any substance involved in metabolism…made and used during these metabolic processes.

The researchers uncovered a metabolite that converts a bad fat (white fat) cells into good fat (brown fat) cells. Researchers studied how the metabolic process promotes one type of fat over the other in the human body.

This discovery offers a potential way of addressing metabolic conditions like obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease

White fat stores excess energy in pot bellies and love handles, too much white fat builds up in obesity. Brown fat cells burn away that stored energy to create heat and help maintain body temperature. 

Scripps Research team examined a catalog of existing drug compounds already tested for human safety. But they identified one with some exciting potential…an asthma drug called zafirlukast.

The FDA-approved zafirlukast could turn precursor fat cells into predominantly brown fat cells and also convert white fat cells into brown but the drug is toxic if administered in high doses.

“The reason many types of molecules don’t go to market is because of toxicity,” says co-senior author Gary Siuzdak. “With our technology, we can pull out endogenous metabolites – meaning the ones that the body makes on its own – that can have the same impact as a drug with less side effects. The potential of this approach is even evidenced by the FDA’s recent approval of Relyvrio, the combination of two endogenous metabolites for the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).”

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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