UTSA researchers develop innovative inhibitor to fight obesity & heart disease

By Salma C, Intern Reporter
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Image Courtesy: Photo by Towfiqu Barbhuiya from Pexels

A University of Texas-based interdisciplinary research team has successfully developed an innovative inhibitor that offers promise in the fight against obesity and prevents heart disease.

Mr. Francis Yoshimoto, an assistant professor at the UTSA College of Sciences’ Chemistry Department led the team that developed the anti-obesity drug that blocks the effects of
Cytochrome P450 8b1, an enzyme associated with cholesterol absorption and obesity.

Prof. Yoshimoto partnered with Ms. Eunhee Chung, an associate professor in the UTSA College of Health, Community and Policy’s Department of Kinesiology to experiment with the new drug. After designing and synthesizing the drug, Prof. Chung and her team of researchers analyzed the drug in the National Institutes of Health-funded laboratory.

Prof. Francis Yoshimoto
Mr. Francis Yoshimoto, Ms. Eunhee Chung, and the UTSA Research Team

Commenting on the new research Mr. Yoshimoto stated that “Growing up, I dreamed of helping my family members, who were affected by obesity and heart disease and other medical conditions. This dream is now turning into a reality, as we have developed a small molecule that can be used to fight obesity, a problem seen in many families around the world.”

Ms. Chung further explained that, “As an exercise physiologist, I truly believe exercise is the best medicine to fight against noncommunicable diseases. Unfortunately, adherence to exercise is quite low, and the prevalence of obesity is continuously rising. Based on promising data, I have high hopes of further testing Dr. Yoshimoto’s inhibitor.”

The UTSA’s new drug can stop the action of P450 8B1, an enzyme that produces cholic acid in the body. This inhibition reduces the absorption of cholesterol. This process may play a key role in the treatment of obesity-related metabolic disorders and other diseases associated with obesity, such as heart disease and diabetes.

The Study 

The team’s research included testing mice with the inhibitor drug for seven days. After using the drug, the mice’s blood glucose levels dropped, despite being fed a diet high in fat and high sucrose, without affecting their body weight. The results show how the P450 8B1 inhibitor can lead to a healthy metabolic profile, and its potential to lead to the development of a treatment strategy to treat insulin resistance associated with obesity.

The new innovative inhibitor represents UTSA’s mission to develop solutions to complex challenges that improve the health and well-being of the community. Creating an effective drug to prevent obesity will improve the quality of life around the world.

Obesity is generally caused by overeating and immobility. When you consume high amounts of energy, especially fat and sugar, and do not utilize the energy through exercise and physical activity, the body stores excess energy as fat.

Obesity will affect almost every area of ​​health, from metabolic, mechanical, reproductive, respiratory to memory, mood, and psycho-social health. Obesity is associated with several conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obstructive sleep apnea, and cancer. It causes high morbidity and mortality in people of all ages. Over the last few decades, the prevalence of obesity has been on the rise.

“These results show how our research in synthetic chemistry can significantly contribute to the well-being of society by treating obesity and heart disease,” Mr. Yoshimoto added.

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