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New patch aims to convert energy-storing fats into energy-burning fats

A novel obesity treatment that uses a skin patch to reduce fats around the stomach is demonstrating effectiveness in research facility trials.

The new treatment combines a new drug delivery method using a micro-needle patch, with drugs that have been shown to convert energy-storing white fat into energy-burning brown fat.

This new technique has been shown to reduce weight gain in mice fed on a high fat diet and to reduce the overall mass of fat by more than 30% after a period of four weeks.

A cost-effective, slow-release drug delivery design

The new skin patch contains hundreds of micro-needles, each thinner than a human hair, which are filled with either beta-3 adrenergic receptor agonist or another drug called thyroid hormone T3 triiodothyronine.

The patch is pressed into the skin for around two minutes as the needles become embedded into the skin and detach from the patch. The needles degrade and the drug diffuses into white fat beneath the skin.

The drug dose on this method is much less than that of oral medication, and the slow-release design minimises side effects.

The research team at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, has estimated that the prototype patch had a material cost of just $3.50 to make, making the potential treatment highly cost-effective.

New hope for tackling obesity

Brown fats are found in babies and help to keep the baby warm by burning fat. However, as humans grow older, the amount of brown fat in the body decreases as it is replaced by visceral white fat.

The treatment provides fresh hope for tackling ever-rising levels of obesity, a key indicator of coronary illness, stroke and type 2 diabetes. According to the World Health Organization, 1.9 billion people were overweight in 2016, with 650 million of those being obese.