In the near future – a real and healthy weight loss pill?!

Brittany Sauser (for MIT Technology Review) wrote a very interesting article on what may potentially be the silver bullet we are all hoping for! This new drug, developed by Sirtris Pharmaceuticals, is referred to as SRT1720, and it delivers all the health benefits of diet and exercise without any of the effort!

European scientists, led by professor Johan Auwerx at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), in Switzerland, have found that mice fed on a high-fat, high-calorie diet and prevented from exercising regularly, can be protected against weight gain and metabolic disorders when given SRT1720. The treatment even increases the animals’ running endurance and reduced cholesterol levels.

The effects of the SRT1720 are similar to that of resveratrol, a molecule found in red wine that has previously been shown to extend the life span of mice and at the same time delivering a number of other general health benefits. However, it was noted that SRT1720 is many, many times more potent than resveratrol, meaning that it could be taken in smaller doses.

SRT1720, like resveratrol, works by targeting a gene known as sirtuin 1, or SIRT1. Scientists believe this gene is of the utmost importance in regulating life span. SIRT1 is a central controller of mitochondrial activity (mitochondria are the energy providers in all cells). To increase the activity levels of mitochondria is one of the best treatments against diabetes and obesity because you burn off extra energy instead of storing it,” notes Auwerx

To date SRT1720 has only been proven to be effective in mice, but human clinical studies for the treatment of diseases like type 2 diabetes are planned for 2009. Scientists believe that there are already clear indications that this drug will prove to be as effective in humans. An even more potent cousin compound of SRT1720 is also currently undergoing clinical trials.

During the study, the mice were fed a high-fat, high-calorie diet mixed with high doses of SRT1720 for approximately 10 weeks. The mice did not exercise regularly, but the animals’ exercise capacity, or stamina, were tested by making them run on a treadmill. “The mice treated with the compound ran significantly longer,” says Auwerx. The drug also protected the animals from the negative effects of high-calorie diets: metabolic disorders, obesity-related diseases, insulin resistance, and high cholesterol levels.

“It’s as if the couch-potato mice underwent a strict diet and exercise regime,” says David Sinclair, a biologist at Harvard Medical School, in Boston, who is one of the cofounders of Sirtris but was not involved in the current study. “We could know as early as next year if the same types of benefits we witnessed in mice, will be seen in humans,” he says.

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