Skin patches could combat diabetes and "love handles", scientists say


Researchers have come up with a skin patch that can melt fat and boost the body's metabolism. White fat stores excess energy in large droplets of triglyceride.

"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", says Dr. Qiang.

Researchers have been searching for a way to transform white fat into brown fat, which is more common in newborns and protects the body from cold temperatures. The findings were published on Friday in the journal ACS Nano.

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There are already drugs that convert energy-storing white fat into energy-burning brown fat, while also raising the body's metabolism.

The key to the new therapy is the use of some clinically available drugs that promote the fat conversion without side effects by delivering smaller quantities of the drugs directly into the fat tissue via a patch. The patch contains dozens of microscopic needles that contain the drugs which are painlessly and directly delivered to the fat tissues, reducing those complications and side effects drastically.

"The nanoparticles were meant to adequately hold the medication and afterward continuously crumple, discharging it into close-by tissue sustainedly as opposed to spreading the medication all through the body rapidly", Professor Zhen Gu, of the University of North Carolina, who co-wrote the examination. The drugs are put into nanoparticles, microscopic containers exponentially thinner than a strand of hair.

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The patch was tested in obese mice by loading the nanoparticles with one of two compounds known to promote browning: rosiglitazone (Avandia) or beta-adrenergic receptor agonist (CL 316243) that works well in mice but not in humans.

Patches were applied to the mice's abdomens, and were replaced every three days for a total of four weeks. The mice also showed considerably lower fasting blood glucose levels. It turns out that mice who got patched with either of the two drugs had a 20 percent reduction in fat on the side with the patch. Control mice were also given two empty patches.

Tests in normal, lean mice revealed that treatment with either of the two drugs increased the animals' oxygen consumption (a measure of overall metabolic activity) by about 20 percent compared to untreated controls. 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. But all of these now exist only in pill and injection form. Even better and more importantly, the patch could serve as a future treatment for metabolic conditions or diabetes.

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