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Scientists have synthesised a new compound that ‘mimics’ exercise

MATTHEW DUNN

THE colder months are coming to an end and you have been contemplating getting back into a workout routine to shed those unwanted kilos before summer.

But before you switch off Netflix, remove your snuggie and hit the gym, there might be an easier way.

Researchers from Britain’s University of Southampton have synthesised a molecule that tricks cells into thinking they have performed rigorous exercise, which means a functioning weight-loss pill could soon be on its way.

Professor of Chemical Biology at the University of Southampton Ali Tavassoli led the team that discovered and developed the molecule dubbed compound 14.

The process itself its very long and convoluted, but essentially the molecule works by triggering a chain reaction of events in the cells of the body.

The final product is the body being tricked into activating the cells central energy censor known as AMPK.

When AMPK is ignited, the cells increase their glucose update and metabolism — something that commonly occurs during exercise and can lead to weight loss.

Mr Tavassoli said by acting as an exercise mimetic and increasing the uptake and usage of glucose and oxygen in cells, the molecule could have potential benefits in the treatment of several diseases, including type 2 diabetes and obesity.

“Our molecule, which activates AMPK by altering cellular metabolism, therefore holds much promise as a potential therapeutic agent,” he said.

While the compound is yet to be verified as safe for human consumption, a clinical trial has found it was effective when delivered to mice.

For the experiment, researchers had a group of obese mice and a group of mice that were a healthy weight.

While a single dose of the compound resulted in no changes to the healthy mice, when it was delivered to the overweight mice it was discovered it lowered their blood glucose to near normal levels.

More impressively, the obese mice lost five per cent of their body weight when given a daily dose for seven consecutive days.

Associate Professor in Integrative Physiology at the University of Southampton and study co-author Dr Felino Cagampang said the discovery holds the power to change the way overweight people into shape.

“This new molecule seems to reduce glucose levels and at the same time decrease body weight, but only if the subject is obese.”

Moving forward the researchers are looking to examine the effectiveness of reducing body weight in humans with long-term treatment.
If successful, a weight loss pill could be on its way in the not-so-distant future.