Researchers gave mice the drug and observed that they were thinner and had better insulin sensitivity than mice who did not get the drug.
A drug commonly used to treat asthma may also trim waistlines.
A study published Sunday in the journal Nature Medicine found a link between the drug, amlexanox, and weight loss in mice. The drug not only slimmed down obese mice, but also improved their insulin sensitivity.
"Because of its record of safety in patients, amlexanox may be an interesting candidate for clinical evaluation in the treatment of obesity and related disorders," the researchers said.
The researchers conducted the study at the University of Michigan's Life Sciences Institute. Sunday, the university said the study seemed to confirm that two genes were inhibited – genes thought to play crucial roles in maintaining metabolic balance.
According to the report by the university, the two genes – IKKE and TBK1 – are believed to put the brakes on metabolism, preventing people from burning calories. Dieters often run into problems when their bodies adjust to reduced caloric intake by slowing down their metabolisms.
But amlexanox, the researchers believe, can inhibit those two genes that cause the slow-down, thereby allowing dieters to burn more calories and maintain a faster metabolism even as they take in fewer calories.
Amlexanox has been on the market in Japan for more than 25 years, but the researchers were cautious about predicting how humans would respond to the drug as a weight loss aid.
It is not yet clear if the effectiveness of the drug in obese mice would translate to a breakthrough for humans who are obese or have diabetes.
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