A nanoparticle-powered microneedle patch to melt fat

Nanotech is now being researched as a treatment for obesity and diabetes — via a “microneedle patch” that can facilitate targeted fat burning through drug loaded nanoparticles, according to Forbes magazine.

Humans store fat as either white fat or brown fat. White fat is geared for long term energy, whereas brown fat burns far easier. However, by the time we reach adulthood, most fat is kept as white fat.

A drug that turns fat from white to brown has long been sought — but the problem is that these kinds of drugs also tend to have side effects for other body parts — which means they can’t be ingested as a pill or injected through conventional methods.

Developed by researchers from the Columbia University Medical Centre, the microneedle patch offers a controlled drug delivery so only the desired areas are affected. Once applied to the skin, the patch releases a “fat-browning” drug encapsulated in nanoparticles. Because these particles slowly dissolve when they come into contact with the body, the drug only impacts the fat directly under the skin.

The research, which was published in ACS Nano Journal, used obese mice as test subjects. After a week of treatment, they found a 20% fat reduction in the targeted areas — as well as lowered blood glucose levels (implying an application in diabetes treatment).

The World Health Organisation reported that 1.9 billion adults were overweight and 600 million were obese in 2014. In their global study covering 2010-2014, none of the countries studied indicated any signs of decline in their obesity numbers. Developing countries recorded a 30% increase in their childhood obesity rates compared to high-income countries. If the obesity trend isn’t reversed, by 2025, we would be seeing 70 million overweight or obese babies and children.

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