Could an Antibody Drug Help You Shed Pounds? | Health News

By Amy Norton HealthDay Reporter

(HealthDay)

MONDAY, Nov. 2, 2020 (HealthDay News) — An experimental antibody drug that targets one of the body’s key metabolism regulators may help obese people lose weight — at least briefly.

That’s one finding from an early study that tested the injection drug, which mimics the effects of a natural hormone called fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21). In the body, FGF21 helps govern metabolism, calorie-burning and food intake.

Researchers found that a single injection spurred “metabolic improvements” in overweight and obese adults that lasted up to two months. On average, people started eating fewer calories after a week, and saw their “good” HDL cholesterol increase while their levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol, insulin and triglycerides all fell.

Beyond that, their food preferences started to shift away from sweets, and they managed to drop a couple pounds — albeit temporarily.

Experts called the findings “interesting,” but stressed the work is very preliminary.

“The purpose of this study was really to determine dose and to get an idea of proof of concept,” said Dr. Donna Ryan, a professor emerita at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La. She was not involved in the study.

It would take much more research to prove the antibody is safe and effective, Ryan said. And that, she added, would be a “long, difficult and expensive proposition.”

She pointed to the bigger picture, saying there is “excitement” in the field of obesity drug development: Researchers are studying how various “molecules” in the body regulate metabolism, and trying to turn those molecules into medication. The injection drug Saxenda, approved in the United States in 2014, is an example, Ryan said.

The new research is of a piece with that, she said.

The findings were published Nov. 2 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

FGF21 is a hormone that helps control metabolism by stimulating certain receptors in fat tissue, the liver, the pancreas and the central nervous system. Past research has suggested that people who carry certain variants in the FGF21 gene tend to have a sweet tooth and a preference for carbohydrates.

In addition, people with obesity, type 2 diabetes or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease appear to have high levels of FGF21 in their blood.

That suggests they may have grown resistant to the hormone — similar to how people become resistant to insulin, said senior study author Dr. Puneet Arora.

Scientists have tried giving modified versions of FGF21 to benefit metabolism. But the protein is cleared from the body too quickly to be useful, explained Arora, who was with biotech company Genentech at the time of the study.

So, Arora and his colleagues there developed a lab-engineered antibody that essentially mimics the hormone.

As an initial test, they recruited 60 overweight and obese adults, then randomly assigned them to have a single injection of the antibody or a placebo. For about a week, the participants stayed at the research center, following a controlled diet. And by the end

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New data shed more light on source of coronavirus clusters around Mass.

Of the 28 COVID-19 clusters linked to child care from Sept. 27 through Oct. 24, just 70 confirmed infections were identified, along with 253 close contacts that required additional tracing and testing.

Similarly, just 70 confirmed cases were identified from 19 clusters in restaurants and food courts, the data show.

In posting the new data, Massachusetts joins a handful of other states that are sharing such information.

Health departments in some states, including Louisiana, post reports from their contact-tracing programs that specify the businesses, schools, or other facilities where outbreaks are occurring. Others, such as Vermont and Colorado, post the occupations, industries, or settings — such as bars, casinos, or food processing plants — with the highest number or percentages of infections in their states.

Massachusetts’ new data show 2,707 clusters involving 6,830 new cases linked to households. That accounts for about a third of all the new infections in the past month.

“A large amount of transmission is occurring in households, a place where people let their guard down and feel safe,” said Tory Mazzola, a spokesman for the state’s coronavirus command center. ”It’s critical that residents are aware of this and — especially those living in multi-generational homes or with family members who have underlying conditions — take precautions even in their home, such as wearing a mask, washing hands and not sharing utensils, as a few examples.”

Carlene Pavlos, executive director of the Massachusetts Public Health Association, said the household data leaves too many unanswered questions.

“What we really want to understand is how is the spread getting into the community,” she said. “Residents living in the same household, we know they are likely to spread it to each other.”

Earlier this week, Governor Charlie Baker said workplace infections are not driving the state’s surge in cases, but the new data suggests that’s an open question.

The data do not identify whether the cases and clusters identified in nursing homes, hospitals, and other health care settings are among workers or patients. But it does show that about 16 percent of the confirmed cases linked to clusters in the past month are from various sites, including health care, restaurants, retail stores, and other settings.

As the holidays approach, Baker has urged residents to be cautious about social gatherings, but the new data suggest those gatherings are not necessarily fueling the latest surge in coronavirus infections.

The new numbers show 11 new clusters traced to social gatherings in the last month. Yet those clusters accounted for just 67 new confirmed cases, along with 50 other people considered close contacts who may have been infected.

“Clearly that is not what is driving this latest spike of over 1,000 new cases a day,” Pavlos said.


Kay Lazar can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKayLazar.

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