Scientists closing in on new obesity drug
Researchers have developed a smart tool that speeds up the search for a molecule that can bring a pill against obesity one step closer
The molecule would activate a specific protein that inhibits appetite and increases sugar uptake from the blood.
The protein, called FFA4, can stimulate different physiological activities such as the production of appetite controlling hormones and hormones that control the intestinal uptake of food.
The protein is found in the cell membranes in intestines, in immune cells and in fat.
It is activated by long-chain free fatty acids released from the food such as omega-3 fatty acids. When this happens, it releases hormones that inhibit our appetite and increase sugar uptake from the blood.
“In some people this protein is not activated and they have a much higher risk of becoming obese. This can be explained by the involvement of the protein in hormone secretion and regulation of inflammation and insulin sensitivity,” said Bharat Shimpukade from Department of Physics, Chemistry and Pharmacy at University of Southern Denmark.
Together with Professor Trond Ulven from the same department and colleagues from University of Glasgow he is the co-author of a new paper on the subject in The Journal of Biological Chemistry.
“We want to find a way to activate this protein, because that may help us to develop a drug against obesity or diabetes,” said Shimpukade.
Molecules can activate proteins, so the job is ‘just’ to find the right molecule.
“But there is almost an infinite number of possible molecules that we can synthesise, and it is extremely time consuming to test molecules randomly for their possible ability to activate this particular protein,” said Shimpukade.
The job could therefore take years and years of painstaking experiments in laboratories – but this can now be avoided thanks to the new development by the research team.
“We have developed a computer model of FFA4 that can help us to select the correct molecules for synthesis by first testing if they bind in the computer model,” said Shimpukade.
“This way we can test thousands of molecules in a very short time before going into the laboratory. This will speed up the process of finding the right compounds that can be developed to efficient drugs against obesity or diabetes,” he said.