More than one-third of all adults in the U.S. qualify as obese. Obesity has been difficult to treat with drugs, particularly since many have been pulled from the market due to serious side effects. Surgery (or this high-tech implant) is always an option, but what if we could take a mostly harmless bacteria, modify it, and use that as a weight loss drug instead? A group of researchers think this is possible: they have successfully tested a genetically-altered version of the E. coli bacteria in mice, and the results were unmistakable: the mice with the bacteria gained less weight than their counterparts that didn't get them.
The scientists chose a particular strain of E. coli for their experiments. They added a gene from the arabidopsis plant that prompts the bacteria to release hormones when the body processes fat. The hormones travel to the brain via the bloodstream, where they tell the brain to stop eating, suppressing appetite. The treated mice were given high-fat meals for eight weeks on a specific schedule, but their meals were smaller than those of the control group of mice.
The mice treated with the altered E. coli ate less and gained less weight than the mice that weren’t treated. Not only that, but they also tested lower for health issues like diabetes and insulin resistance. Most remarkable is that these mice were still benefiting from the altered bacteria even 4 to 6 weeks after being dosed.
So could this be the miracle diet drug we’ve all been waiting for? Maybe, considering it would only require monthly dosing and has very few side effects. However, we have to remember that mice aren’t people (we tend to forget that when writing about studies like this), so only time (and clinical human trials) will tell.