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Fat-Burning Chemical Points to New Weight-Loss Drug

Results of lab tests with mice suggest promising new direction for research, scientists say

TUESDAY, Feb. 2 (HealthDay News) -- American scientists say they may have found a new way to trick the body into burning more fat.

Mice that were given a chemical that blocks the function of an enzyme called Fyn kinase burned more fatty acids and expended more energy, which made them leaner. This and other metabolic improvements, including increased insulin sensitivity, were because of higher levels of the "master energy switch" AMPK in the rodents' fat and muscle tissue.

The findings suggest that Fyn kinase may offer a target for a new kind of weight-loss drug, said the researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Neuroscience. The study appears in the Feb. 3 issue of the journal Cell Metabolism.

"When there is an imbalance between what we eat and what we burn," the result is obesity, team leader Claire Bastie said in a news release from the journal. "And the problem of obesity is not going away. This is a new mechanism to help the body burn extra energy."

The experimental drug used to block Fyn kinase in the mice isn't an ideal candidate for clinical trials in humans because both Fyn kinase and AMPK have effects in the brain as well as in fat and muscle.

"Our next goal is to design [a drug] extremely specific to muscle and [fat]," Bastie said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more about weight loss.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Cell Press, news release, Feb 2, 2010

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