The research, published Friday in ACS Nano, suggests the patch turned "white fat", which stores excess energy, into "dark fat", which burns fat to produce heat. Newborns have large amounts of brown fat, which protects them against exposure to cold temperatures.
This skin patch makes use of nanotechnology to convert white fat in the body to brown fat that burns energy, boosting the body's metabolism, Tech Times reports. The drugs are put into nanoparticles, microscopic containers exponentially thinner than a strand of hair.
The centimetre-square patch contains dozens of microscopic needles that painlessly inject the drug.
'There are several clinically available drugs that promote browning, but all must be given as pills or injections, ' said study co-leader Dr Li Qiang, assistant professor of pathology and cell biology at CUMC. However, they can also cause unwanted side effects like weight gain, bone fractures and stomach trouble.
By contrast, the skin patch circumvents these complications by delivering the drugs directly to the region needed, such as the areas of flesh above the hips.
This released drugs gradually into the nearby tissue "in a sustained way instead of spreading the drug throughout the body quickly", said patch designer and study co-author Zhen Gu, PhD, associate professor of joint biomedical engineering at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University.
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During trials, patches containing two compounds - either rosiglitazone (Avandia) or beta-adrenergic receptor agonist (CL 316243) - were stuck to obese mice.
New patches were applied every three days for a total of four weeks. Control mice were also given two empty patches.
Researchers from Columbia University Medical Center and the University of North Carolina devised the medicated skin patch to test on mice.
They had lower blood sugar levels and used a fifth more oxygen, as their metabolism increased.
It would also be an effective way to treat disorders like obesity and diabetes. Researchers say that now the patch is not compatible with humans, but they'll keep investigating to adapt it. "It is demonstrated that this patch reduces treated fat pad size, increases whole body energy expenditure, and improves type-2 diabetes in vivo in a diet-induced obesity mouse model".
The researchers are now studying which drugs, or combination of drugs, work best to promote localized browning and increase overall metabolism. The authors declare no other financial or other conflicts of interest.