Study found common drug may reduce obesity, fatty liver, heart disease

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Obesity is a major health challenge worldwide, associated with an increased risk of various diseases.

Despite its prevalence, there are currently no effective pills for treating severe obesity.

However, recent research at Johns Hopkins Medicine has uncovered a potential breakthrough using a drug initially developed for other serious conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, and sickle cell disease.

This drug, which targets an enzyme called PDE9, was found to not only reduce obesity and fatty liver but also to improve heart function in mice, all without requiring changes to diet or exercise habits.

This discovery builds on earlier findings by the same team from 2015, which showed that the PDE9 enzyme is active in the heart and contributes to heart disease when aggravated by high blood pressure.

PDE9 inhibitors are still in the experimental phase, meaning they are not yet available as a commercial drug. These inhibitors work similarly to well-known medications like Viagra, which blocks a related enzyme, PDE5, that also controls a cellular messenger called cyclic GMP.

In the study, the researchers explored whether inhibiting PDE9 could have broader health benefits, such as lowering high blood pressure, reducing high levels of blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglycerides, and cutting down excess body fat, particularly around the waist.

The specific inhibitor used in the mouse study, known as PF-04447943, was initially developed by Pfizer Inc. for Alzheimer’s disease but was abandoned for this purpose after clinical trials.

It was, however, found to be well-tolerated by over 100 people in those trials without causing serious side effects. Now, a different PDE9 inhibitor is under testing for treating human heart failure.

Given the staggering statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which report over 40% of U.S. residents are obese, and 43% of American women over 60 are considered obese, the implications of this research could be profound.

If the effects observed in mice can be replicated in humans, it might mean that a person weighing 250 pounds could potentially lose about 50 pounds using an oral PDE9 inhibitor, without altering their eating or physical activity patterns.

This study, led by David Kass and published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, opens up exciting possibilities for managing obesity more effectively. It suggests a future where managing weight could become more accessible without the need for drastic lifestyle changes.

In the meantime, the study also touches on the broader discourse around obesity and weight management, challenging the notion that overeating is the primary driver of obesity.

Further research and testing are needed to confirm these findings in humans and to ensure the safety and effectiveness of PDE9 inhibitors as a treatment option for obesity and related metabolic conditions.

If successful, this could pave the way for a revolutionary treatment in the battle against obesity, offering hope to millions struggling with weight issues worldwide.

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