A patch a day keeps belly fat away

Prof Chen Peng (left) and Asst Prof Xu Chenjie with the fat-burning patch. Credit: NTU.

Obesity, the bane of health systems in developed and developing countries alike, is associated with diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Treatments to reduce body fat in obese patients are typically administered orally or by injection, and require large doses that are associated with severe side effects.

Thanks to Prof Chen Peng and Asst Prof Xu Chenjie from NTU’s School of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, treating belly fat may soon be as easy as putting on a Band-Aid.

When applied on the belly, their medical patch delivers drugs via hundreds of detachable microneedles that slowly dissolve and release the drugs into the skin. The drugs diffuse to the layers of fat cells beneath the skin where they turn white energy-storing fat cells into brown energy-burning fat cells.

When tested in obese mouse models, the medical patch effectively prevented the mice from gaining weight and body fat, while also promoting the browning of white fat.

“The amount of drugs used in the patch is much lower than that in oral medications or injections, reducing the drug ingredient costs. Our slow-release design also minimises side effects,” says Prof Chen, who aims to bring the patch to the clinic in collaboration with clinician scientists and biotech companies.

The microneedle patch technology is described in “Transdermal delivery of anti-obesity compounds to subcutaneous adipose tissue with polymeric microneedle patches”, published in Small Methods (2017), DOI: 10.1002/ smtd.201700269.
This article appeared first in NTU’s research & innovation magazine Pushing Frontiers (issue #13, June 2018).

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