The drug amlexanox, prescribed for the treatment of asthma, appears to reverse obesity, diabetes and fatty liver. This could lead to the development of novel treatments.
Amlexanox is a medication with antiallergic and anti-inflammatory effects. It has been used to treat asthma and certain types of ulcers since 1987. Although important, it was not considered to be the most remarkable of drugs. This could be about to change, according to a new paper published in the science journal Nature.
A recent study undertaken in mice suggests that amlexanox may have activity against obesity and diabetes.
The way that the drug works, CNN summarizes, is by increasing basal metabolism and by inhibiting certain biochemical processes, targeting kinases (a type of enzyme), which are induced in liver and fat. In essence, the treatment of obese mice with amlexanox elevated energy expenditure through increased thermogenesis, producing weight loss.
Commenting on the study, Alan Saltiel, the Mary Sue Coleman director of the Life Sciences Institute, is quoted in the research note as saying: "One of the reasons that diets are so ineffective in producing weight loss for some people is that their bodies adjust to the reduced calories by also reducing their metabolism, so that they are 'defending' their body weight. Amlexanox seems to tweak the metabolic response to excessive calorie storage in mice."
A secondary effect of the drug is to improve insulin sensitivity, which can help with diabetes control.
These findings could lead to the development of a new range of drugs. Amlexanox is ideal for this because it has a good record of safety when used in patients. Before this, however, further trials will be required and the prescribing of amlexanox as an obesity treatment could be several years away.