Stuffing Chips - © Michael Moss - Salt Sugar Fat Book

Sunday Musings: Benefits Of GRS Without Surgery

I was immediately drawn to – glued to – a recent article from the American Chemical Society Journal. It claims a new class of lab-fabbed gut hormones can produce the same dramatic results as gastric restriction surgery (GRS) for the extremely obese. But that’s not all these new drugs can do…

Dr. and Fattie - © health.comA new class of drugs is proving useful in helping to treat a wide range of diseases
and conditions, all of which have been called scourges and even epidemics…

Researchers wanted to see why some patients experience extremely rapid weight loss after GRS. They suspected post surgery changes in the levels of certain gut hormones that signal fullness, curb appetite and normalize blood sugar.

According to an abstract of the study report: “Current drugs that aim to replicate this effect primarily activate cellular receptors for [hormone] GLP-1 in the pancreas and brain. That approach has shown great success in reducing weight and treating type 2 diabetes, drawing a lot of social media postings from celebrities in recent months. But many people can’t tolerate the drugs’ side effects”, says research team leader Dr. Robert Doyle of Syracuse University and SUNY Upstate Medical University.

However, Doyle, added: “Within a year, 80 to 90 percent of people who start on these drugs are no longer taking them.” They’re the ones who can’t tolerate the side effects. Considering the great potential benefits of the existing drugs, Doyle and associates wanted to see if they could engineer a similar drug that did not produce side effects.

What they discovered

Doyle’s group created a peptide that activates two brain receptors for the hormone PYY, as well as the receptor for GLP-1. Dubbed GEP44, this compound caused obese rats to eat up to 80 percent less than they would typically eat. By the end of one 16-day study, subjects lost an average of 12 percent of their weight. That was more than three times the amount lost by rats treated with liraglutide, an injected drug that activates only the GLP-1 receptor.

But weight loss isn’t the only benefit of the new peptide treatments. They also reduce blood sugar by directing glucose to muscle tissue, where it can be burned as fuel, and by converting certain cells in the pancreas into insulin-producing cells, helping replace those that are damaged by diabetes.

But there’s more. Much more…

But there’s yet another benefit that could prove hugely important. Doyle and Dr. Heath Schmidt of the University of Pennsylvania, recently reported that GEP44 reduces the craving for opioids such as fentanyl in rats. If that also works in humans, Doyle says, it could help addicts quit the illicit drugs they’re hooked or, or fend off a relapse. One of the best parts of this application of GEP44 is that it does not work like other anti-opioid medications which only block the receptors for illicit drugs.

Doyle and associates are also hopeful their new drug (or future versions of it) will be useful in combating the nausea and other serious side efffcts of certain powerful anti-cancer (chemotherapy) drugs.

In fact, there’s no telling what other diseases and conditions GEP44 may be found effective in treating.

The takeaway

Extremely rapid weight reduction is the kind of benefit that migh tempt reseasrchers to label a new discovery a ‘Silver Bullet’ to take down the disease or condition it’s associated with. Well… We’ve commented on that before. But now we’ve recently seen not one but two new medications emerge that could (if eventually be confirmed as effective as initial test results indicate) turn out to be just that.

“For a long time, we didn’t think you could separate weight reduction from nausea and vomiting, because they’re linked to the exact same part of the brain,” Doyle says.

But the researchers have now  uncoupled those two pathways — and that has implications for chemotherapy, which causes similar side effects. “What if we could maintain the benefit of chemotherapy drugs but tell the part of the brain that causes vomiting and nausea to knock it off? Then we could dose patients at a higher level, so they would have a better prognosis, and they would also have a better quality of life while undergoing chemotherapy,” he says.

My take

A true Silver Bullet? Maybe.

Too good to be true? Maybe.

Something in between? Probably.

“What next?” I can’t help but ask.

We live in a truly remarkable age…

~ Maggie J.