In the study, published in the June issue of Nature Medicine, it took only weeks of treatment by an experimental drug to restore the normal weight of mice that had doubled their size by eating a high-fat "cafeteria" diet.
Although the work has only been conducted in animals, the authors say it may one day lead to the development of targeted therapies to treat human obesity, which is a risk factor for numerous conditions including cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
"When you inject our drug into mice, it homes in on and promotes the death of blood vessels associated with white fat tissue, which is then reabsorbed and metabolized," says Wadih Arap, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of medicine and cancer biology at M. D. Anderson.
"If even a fraction of what we found in mice relates to human biology, then we are cautiously optimistic that there may be a new way to think about reversing obesity," says Renata Pasqualini, Ph.D., also a professor at M. D. Anderson. Arap and Pasqualini are co-lead investigators on the study.
"Most current obesity treatments involve efforts to prevent new fat accumulation," notes the study's first author, Mikhail Kolonin, Ph.D., an instructor who carried out the project in the Arap/Pasqualini laboratory. "This makes our approach unique and exciting, because it shows in animal models that we can remove already-formed fat by a non-surgical method, a molecular liposuction."
Moreover, the study is another proof of the concept of vascular "zip codes" which was first pioneered by Arap and Pasqualini. Blood vessels are not simply a uniform and ubiquitous "pipeline" that services all parts of the body, but are different depending