New drug lead shows promise as potential treatment for obesity

23 Aug 2013

Scientists from The University of Queensland have discovered a new compound that prevents rats on a high-fat, high-sugar diet from becoming obese.

Professor David Fairlie, from UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience, led the study, which provides strong evidence that drugs designed to treat inflammatory diseases may also be able to prevent and treat obesity.

“Obesity and Type 2 diabetes have reached epidemic proportions in both adults and children,” Professor Fairlie said.

“The clear need for new treatments, combined with the hypothesis that obesity is actually an inflammatory disease, prompted us to study one of our anti-inflammatory compounds for its capacity to prevent and treat obesity in rats.”

Professor Fairlie and his team, which included first authors Dr Junxian Lim and Dr Abishek Iyer from The University of Queensland and co-corresponding author Professor Lindsay Brown from the University of Southern Queensland, examined abdominal fat from overweight and obese rats and humans and found an unusually high amount of an inflammatory protein called PAR2.

When a compound, which binds to PAR2 and blocks inflammation, was administered orally to rats fed a high-fat, high-sugar diet, the rats did not put on weight, preventing many of the detrimental effects associated with obesity.

They are now evaluating compounds from this class further to determine their suitability for future human clinical trials in obesity and other inflammatory disease indications.

“Obesity is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, limb amputation and cancers,” Professor Fairlie said.

“This finding has opened up a new avenue of exploration for anti-obesity treatments just when we need them most.”

The findings were published overnight in The FASEB Journal, one of the world’s most cited biology journals. Subscribers to the journal can access the paper at

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The Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) is a research institute of The University of Queensland that aims to improve quality of life by advancing personalised medicine, drug discovery and biotechnology.


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