Allergy drugs may help reduce obesity and diabetes
London: Drugs commonly used to treat allergies have been found to reduce obesity and type 2 diabetes in mice, say Harvard researchers.Lead researchers Guo-Ping Shi and Jian Liu focussed their study on inflammatory immune cells called mast cells, which facilitate healing in wounded tissue, primarily by increasing blood flow to the site.
In certain conditions, mast cells build up to levels far beyond what the body needs.
Thus the cells become unstable and eventually, like punctured trash bags, leak molecular "garbage" into the tissue. This can result in chronic inflammation that causes asthma and certain allergies.
The researchers also found that mast cells were far more abundant in fat tissue from obese and diabetic humans and mice than they were in normal weight fat tissue.
It prompted them to look at whether regulating mast cells could help control the symptoms.
For further analysis, Shi and colleagues took a group of obese and diabetic mice and, for a period of two months, treated them with over-the-counter allergy drugs ketotifen fumarate (also called Zaditor) or cromolyn.
"We knew from published research that both cromolyn and Zaditor help stabilise mast cells in people suffering from allergy or asthma," said Nature magazine quoted Shi as saying.
The mice involved in the study were divided into four groups. The first was the control group; the second group was simply switched to a healthy diet; the third was given cromolyn or ketotifen fumarate; and the fourth was both given the drug and switched to a healthy diet.
The study showed that while symptoms of the second group improved moderately, the third group demonstrated dramatic improvements in both body weight and diabetes. The fourth group exhibited nearly 100 percent recovery in all areas.
The researchers then took a group of mice whose ability to produce mast cells was genetically impaired.
They found despite three months of a diet rich in sugar and fat, these mice neither became obese nor developed diabetes.
"The best thing about these drugs is that we know it`s safe for people," said Shi.
However, the researchers tend to conduct more studies on the effect of cromolyn and ketotifen fumarate on obese and diabetic non-human primates.
The findings have been published in the journal Nature Medicine.
First Published: Monday, July 27, 2009, 00:00
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