'Fat patch' to provide targeted weight-loss trialed in the US

Skin patches that release fat-burning drugs directly into areas on the body could help with problems such as love handles. Researchers from Columbia University and University of North Carolina tested the patches on mice and found they lost 20 percent of

They added that the patch can also be used to burn off pockets of unwanted fat such as "love handles" and treat metabolic disorders.

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center in NY trialed the device on mice and found they lost 20 per cent of fat on the treated side compared to the untreated side. Human trials haven't happened, though, and we're likely a long way from seeing these types of patches prescribed to patients. White fat stores excess energy in large triglyceride droplets.

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

"There are several clinically available drugs that promote browning, but all must be given as pills or injections", said study co-leader Li Qiang, Ph.D. This causes side effects such as stomach upset, bone fractures and (ironically) weight gain.

The new skin patch works differently in that it delivers most drugs directly to the fat tissue, which alleviates complications. The drugs are put into nanoparticles, microscopic containers exponentially thinner than a strand of hair.

The patch has microscopic needles across it that when applied to the skin painlessly pierces the desired area.

"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.

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To test the patch, researchers loaded them with two different drugs and applied them to obese mice (the concept of an obese mouse is amusing in and of itself), but only on one side.

Each mouse was given two patches, one containing drug-containing nanoparticles and another without drugs.

However, the researchers said their experiments on mice showed this could be avoided by using a patch.

They had lower blood sugar levels and used a fifth more oxygen, as their metabolism increased. 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.

It would also be an effective way to treat disorders like obesity and diabetes.

Researchers applied new patches to the mice every three days for four weeks. The other contributors are Yuqi Zhang (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC), Qiongming Liu (CUMC), Jicheng Yu (University of North Carolina and North Carolina State University), Shuangjiang Yu (University of North Carolina and Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Changchun, Jilin, China), and Jinqiang Wang (University of North Carolina).