Fat-fighting molecule targets mitochondria to burn off excess fat in mice

June 15, 2020

A new molecule – which is said to trick the body into burning off more fat than necessary – has been discovered by a team of researchers from Virginia Tech at the University of Virginia, US, and the University of New South Wales, Australia. The newly-identified molecule, BAM15, is a type of “mitochondrial uncoupler” that works by targeting mitochondria and changing the way they consume energy and distribute it throughout the body.

Often described as the powerhouse of a cell, mitochondria normally rely on a balance of protons on either side of its inner membrane to generate energy. However, by increasing the proton numbers in its matrix, the BAM15 molecule forces the cell to expel the protons outside the membrane wall – in fat-fighting terms this has the effect of burning fuel at higher levels than are actually needed.

In a number of mouse studies, in which the rodents were administered a BAM15-based drug, the researchers noted significant weight loss i.e. reductions to body fat in mice without changes to their diet. The team also believes BAM15 functions without affecting the satiety centre in the brain that controls appetite, does not affect body temperature and is non-toxic even in higher doses.

Webster Santos, Professor of chemistry at Virginia Tech, explained, “Mitochondrial uncouplers are small molecules that go to the mitochondria to help the cells respire more. Effectively, they change metabolism in the cell so that we burn more calories without doing any exercise.”

Unfortunately, the BAM15 had relatively short-lived performance in the mouse models – if the molecule could be established to work well in humans, it could help with a range of health problems related to obesity and even ageing; BAM15 was shown to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, which are related to the progression of degenerative diseases and aging.

“If you just minimise aging, you could minimise the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease exponentially,” said Santos.


Category: Education, Features

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