For millions of people around the world who suffer from obesity, improved diet and exercise can sometimes not make the cut. Governments around the world have even started to toy with the idea of a sugar tax and the implementation of other nutritional policies.

Every other week you’ll hear about some new drug, exercise or diet that is going to help you shed those pounds and be a healthier you. Problem is 3/4 of the stuff out there is complete garbage. Or never get out of the testing phase for years due to red tape.

Recently scientist were on to an alternative to diet and exercise, with the approach showing promise in experiments with mice, rats, and monkeys. It seems that overwhelming the body with a protein that makes an individual prefer low-fat food and feel fuller longer, and that activates neurons responsible for regulating the body’s energy intake.

In many species, leaner creatures appear to have naturally higher concentrations of a specific kind of protein. GDF15. So what researchers from the pharmaceutical company Amgen did was to boost levels of the compound in obese animals via gene therapy.

Test on animals showed that the therapy had helped make the animals healthier. But their bodies burned through the substance far too quickly for it to produce any lasting effect. With that, scientists then decided to bypass the gene therapy approach and engineered two stable, longer-lasting forms of GDF15 that they injected directly into the animals.

Weekly injections of either of these engineered molecules slimmed down rodents and monkeys without causing any severe apparent side effects. After about a month of weekly treatments treated rodents sometimes lost as much as 24 percent of their body weight.

The specifics need to be ironed out, but the Amgen team has discovered a few clues in their rodent studies: They found treated animals had increased activation of specific neurons in the brain that detects blood sugar, and this may have helped them sense when it was time to stop eating. The animals receiving the therapy seemed to prefer a lower-fat diet than those that did not.

More test needs to be made on if the therapy could cause muscle loss as well and if there are other side effects such as depression or mood changes.

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