A Skidmore College alumnus and professor have been awarded U.S. Patent No. 8,598,150 for use of an antioxidant compound that shows promise in the treatment of obesity and related disorders, such as type-2 diabetes.
The researchers—Jonathan R. Brestoff Parker, a 2008 Skidmore graduate and currently a trustee of the college, and Thomas H. Reynolds, associate professor of health and exercise sciences—discovered that treating obese mice with an antioxidant called MnTBAP* decreases obesity and improves type-2 diabetes.
Obese mice that received the compound lost 40 percent of their body weight. "To put that number in context, if a 300-pound obese person lost 40 percent of their body weight, they would have lost 120 pounds," said Brestoff Parker.
The compound works by breaking down triglycerides, which are stored in excess in fat tissue of obese people. The researchers' next step, according to Reynolds, is "to figure out how that happens. What are the cellular and molecular events that result in weight loss?" He calls this stage of drug development "the fun part of science—trying to design the next study that will yield information about how a biological system responds to a drug."
The original research showing that MnTBAP dramatically decreases obesity was Brestoff Parker's senior thesis. A personal challenge motivated his interest. He explained, "I struggled with being overweight throughout my childhood and adolescence. A lot of people know what that struggle feels like and how challenging and frustrating it is to shed pounds. That challenge and frustration inspired me to study the molecular basis of obesity with the hope of being able to use that knowledge in an empowering way."
Brestoff Parker and Reynolds continue to collaborate. The Reynolds laboratory is further investigating how antioxidant compounds such as MnTBAP promote weight loss. Brestoff Parker, now working toward M.D. and Ph.D. degrees at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, is investigating in unrelated studies how the immune system regulates the development of obesity. Together, they aim to publish their work and progress through the drug development process.