Viagra converts fat cells

January 17, 2013

Researchers from the University of Bonn treated mice with Viagra and made an amazing discovery: The drug converts undesirable white fat cells and could thus potentially melt the unwelcome "spare tire" around the midriff. In addition, the substance also decreases the risk of other complications caused by obesity. The results are now published in The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB).

Sildenafil – better known as Viagra – is used to treat erectile dysfunction. This substance prevents degradation of cyclic guanosine mono-phosphate (cGMP), which then ensures for an erection. However, another effect of has been noticed quite some time ago – mice given sildenafil over longer periods of time were resistant to obesity when fed with high-fat diet. However, the cause for this reduced weight gain had been unclear. Researchers from the University of Bonn have been able to shed some light on this sildenafil effect. "We have been researching the effect of cGMP on for quite some time now," reports Prof. Dr. Alexander Pfeifer, Director of the Institute for Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Bonn. "This is why sildenafil was a potentially interesting candidate for us."

Viagra converts undesirable white fat cells into beige ones

Together with the PharmaCenter of the University of Bonn, the German Federal Institute for Drugs and (BfArM), and the Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research, the team around Prof. Pfeifer studied the effect of sildenafil on fat cells in mice. The researchers administered the potency drug to the rodents for seven days. "The effects were quite amazing," says Dr. Ana Kilic, one of Prof. Pfeifer's colleagues. Sildenafil increased the conversion of white fat cells, which are found in human 'problem areas', into beige ones in the animals. "Beige fat cells burn the energy from ingested food and convert it to heat, says Prof. Pfeifer. Because the beige fat cells can "melt the fat" and thus fight obesity, researchers are very hopeful for their potential.

Positive effect on inflammation responses

In addition, the researchers observed something else of interest. If white fat cells are further "stuffed"/accumulating lipids, they are increasing in size and can synthesize and release hormones which in turn cause inflammation thus increasing the persons risk for chronic diseases. Such inflammatory responses may then lead to, e.g., cardio-vascular diseases resulting in heart attacks and strokes, as well as cancer and diabetes. "It seems that sildenafil prevented the fat cells in these mice from getting onto that slippery slope," reports Prof. Pfeifer. Overall, the development of white cells seems to be healthier.

More than half a billion overweight people worldwide

Globally, over half a billion people are overweight. Present study has resulted in interesting starting points for further research on this mechanism. "Sildenafil is not only able to minimize erectile problems, but it can also reduce the risks of gaining excessive weight," says Prof. Pfeifer. The researchers may have found a mechanism that allows converting the undesirable white fat cells into the "good" beige (brown-like) fat cells that "melt" away excess pounds. In addition, it might be possible to decrease complications related with obesity. "But this will need to be proven in additional studies," adds Dr. Kilic.

Caution against premature application

Despite promising data, researchers caution the public against the fallacy of thinking that popping some sildenafil will work to quickly lose the extra pounds accumulated over the holidays. "We are currently in the basic research stage, and all the studies have been exclusively performed on mice," stresses Prof. Pfeifer. It will be a long way until potentially suitable drugs for decreasing cells in humans will be found.

Explore further: How 'beige' fat makes the pounds melt away

More information: Increased cGMP promotes healthy expansion and browning of white adipose tissue, "The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology" (FASEB), Online: www.fasebj.org/content/early/2 … 221580.full.pdf+html

Related Stories

How 'beige' fat makes the pounds melt away

August 28, 2012
Researchers from the University of Bonn and the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried have decoded a signal path that could boost the burning of body fat. Mice that are missing a signal switch called VASP are ...

Newly isolated 'beige fat' cells could help fight obesity

July 12, 2012
Scientists at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have isolated a new type of energy-burning fat cell in adult humans which they say may have therapeutic potential for treating obesity.

A new candidate pathway for treating visceral obesity

May 6, 2012
Brown seems to be the color of choice when it comes to the types of fat cells in our bodies. Brown fat expends energy, while its counterpart, white fat stores it. The danger in white fat cells, along with the increased risk ...

Scientists find molecular link to obesity and insulin resistance in mice

September 27, 2012
Flipping a newly discovered molecular switch in white fat cells enabled mice to eat a high-calorie diet without becoming obese or developing the inflammation that causes insulin resistance, report scientists from Dana-Farber ...

Viagra against heart failure: Researchers throw light on the mechanism

December 23, 2011
How sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra, can alleviate heart problems is reported by Bochum's researchers in cooperation with colleagues from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester (Minnesota) in the journal Circulation. They ...

Recommended for you

Want to win at sports? Take a cue from these mighty mice

July 20, 2017
As student athletes hit training fields this summer to gain the competitive edge, a new study shows how the experiences of a tiny mouse can put them on the path to winning.

'Smart' robot technology could give stroke rehab a boost

July 19, 2017
Scientists say they have developed a "smart" robotic harness that might make it easier for people to learn to walk again after a stroke or spinal cord injury.

Engineered liver tissue expands after transplant

July 19, 2017
Many diseases, including cirrhosis and hepatitis, can lead to liver failure. More than 17,000 Americans suffering from these diseases are now waiting for liver transplants, but significantly fewer livers are available.

Lunatic Fringe gene plays key role in the renewable brain

July 19, 2017
The discovery that the brain can generate new cells - about 700 new neurons each day - has triggered investigations to uncover how this process is regulated. Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Jan and Dan Duncan ...

New animal models for hepatitis C could pave the way for a vaccine

July 19, 2017
They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In the case of hepatitis C—a disease that affects nearly 71 million people worldwide, causing cirrhosis and liver cancer if left untreated—it might be worth ...

Omega-3 fatty acids fight inflammation via cannabinoids

July 18, 2017
Chemical compounds called cannabinoids are found in marijuana and also are produced naturally in the body from omega-3 fatty acids. A well-known cannabinoid in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol, is responsible for some of its ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.