Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
The global obesity epidemic has continued to burgeon without any solid intervention to halt and reverse an issue that now affects more than 1 in 3 people. Yet, that could change with the development of a new vaccine that scientists are hoping will keep the pounds off at the dinner table.
The vaccine — dubbed the “flab jab” — is the invention of scientists at the South Dakota, US company Braasch Biotech with Dr. Keith Haffer at the lead. In lab tests, mice injected with a single dose of the vaccine lost 10 percent of body weight in four days, despite being fed a high-fat diet. This suggests people might be able to continue to overeat and still keep a trim.
If the vaccine passes further safety trials, scientists believe it could lead to a new revolutionary tool in the fight against obesity. Currently the only non-dieting options most people are left with for controlling weight are risky surgeries and strong drugs, which often come with serious side effects.
Haffer noted the team tested two different versions of the vaccine, both offering similar results within three weeks of administration. The body weight loss was not seen in a matched control group of 10 untreated mice.
The vaccine works by fooling the immune system into making antibodies that fight off the hormone somatostatin, which promotes slow metabolism. Somatostatin is made by the brain and the digestive system and interferes with other hormones, leading to the metabolism slowing down and weight being put on. The vaccine antibodies stop the hormone from working, allowing metabolism to speed up and the pounds to drop off.
“This study demonstrates the possibility of treating obesity with vaccination,” said Haffer. “Although further studies are necessary to discover the long term implications of these vaccines, treatment of human obesity with vaccination could provide physicians with a drug and surgical-free option against the weight epidemic.”
This is a significant find given that close to half of all British men could be overweight and obese within 20 years, according to research published by The Lancet in 2011. The proportion of men being labeled obese was predicted to rise from 20 percent to about 48 percent in that timeframe. That study also predicted that 2 in five women in the UK will be obese by 2030.
According to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 33 percent of American adults over age 19 are obese; and an average of 16 percent of all children 19 and younger are also overweight. Those numbers are also likely to rise over the next 20 years.
Obesity kills about 30,000 people every year in the UK and costs the National Health Service more than $800 million annually, and the UK economy more than $3 billion.
Reporting the findings in the Journal of Animal Science and Biotechnology, the team wrote: “The vaccination effects did not significantly reduce cumulative food consumption and was confirmed by residual anti-somatostatin antibodies in mouse plasma at the study’s end.”
More research will be needed, said Haffer, and his team plans to look at the vaccine´s effects in obese pigs before moving on to human trials. He said it is likely ten years out before the advances could be seen used in humans as a way to control weight gain.