Common Allergy Drug Reduces Obesity And Diabetes In Mice

Boston, Massachusetts (PressExposure) August 11, 2009 -- Guo-Ping Shi, a biochemist from the Department of Medicine at BWH, began to suspect such a connection when, in a previous study, he found mast cells present in a variety of inflammatory vascular diseases.

Mast cells are immune cells that facilitate healing in wounded tissue, primarily by increasing blood flow to the site. However, in certain conditions mast cells build up to levels far beyond what the body needs. As a result these cells become unstable and eventually, like punctured trash bags, leak molecular "garbage" into the tissue. This can result in chronic inflammation that causes asthma and certain allergies.

As Shi and colleagues discovered, mast cells were far more abundant in fat tissue from obese and diabetic humans and mice than they were in normal weight fat tissue. This led to an obvious question: by regulating mast cells, could we then control the symptoms?

To find out, Shi and colleagues took a group of obese and diabetic mice and, for a period of two months, treated them with either ketotifen fumarate (also called Zaditor) or cromolyn, both over-the-counter allergy drugs.

"We knew from published research that both cromolyn and Zaditor help stabilize mast cells in people suffering from allergy or asthma," said Shi. "It's almost as if the drugs place an extra layer of plastic on the ripped trash bag. So it seemed like a logical place to begin."

The mice were divided into four groups. The first was the control group; the second group was simply switched to a healthy diet; the third was given cromolyn or ketotifen fumarate; and the fourth was both given the drug and switched to a healthy diet.

While symptoms of the second group improved moderately, the third group demonstrated dramatic improvements in both body weight and diabetes. The fourth group exhibited nearly 100 percent recovery in all areas.

To bolster these findings, Shi and colleagues then took a group of mice whose ability to produce mast cells was genetically impaired. Despite three months of a diet rich in sugar and fat, these mice neither became obese nor developed diabetes.

"The best thing about these drugs is that we know it's safe for people," says Shi. "The remaining question now is: Will this also work for people?"

Shi now intends to test cromolyn and ketotifen fumarate on obese and diabetic non-human primates.

The research was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health.

About Brigham and Women's Hospital

Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) is a 777-bed nonprofit teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School and a founding member of Partners HealthCare, an integrated health care delivery system. BWH is committed to excellence in patient care with expertise in virtually every specialty of medicine and surgery. The BWH medical preeminence dates back to 1832, and today that rich history in clinical care is coupled with its national leadership in quality improvement and patient safety initiatives and its dedication to educating and training the next generation of health care professionals. In July 2008, the hospital opened the Carl J. and Ruth Shapiro Cardiovascular Center, the most advanced center of its kind. Through investigation and discovery conducted at its Biomedical Research Institute (BRI), BWH is an international leader in basic, clinical and translational research on a diversity of human diseases and is at the forefront of personalized medicine. BWH has approximately 900 scientific investigators and more than $450 million in research support, more than 50 percent of which comes from the NIH. BWH is also home to major landmark population studies, including the Nurses' and Physicians' Health Studies and the Women's Health Initiative, which have provided important information on diet and lifestyle risk factors for common chronic diseases. For more information about BWH, please visit Brigham and Women's Hospital.

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Press Release Submitted On: August 10, 2009 at 7:33 am
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