Robin Erb, Detroit Free Press
A drug used to treat canker sores in people has made some fat lab mice skinny.
Could this be the pill to help shrink America's waistline?
"We won't know until we try," said Alan Saltiel, director of University of Michigan's Life Sciences Institute.
Diets often fail because - at least for many people - their bodies adjust to fewer calories by slowing their metabolism, Saltiel said.
In the laboratory, Saltiel and his team used mice that were genetically modified to be obese or that were fed a high-fat diet and grew obese. Some of the mice then were given Amlexanox, a prescription-only drug approved in the U.S. to treat canker sores.
For them, the weight loss was "remarkable," said Dr. Elif Oral, an associate professor of internal medicine at U-M's Metabolism, Endocrinology & Diabetes (MEND) division.
"You see the animals side by side, you can tell the difference," said Oral, who will oversee upcoming human trials with the drug.
The drug appears to inhibit two genes, IKKE and TBK1, that work together to "brake" metabolism. Amlexanox seems to release the brake, freeing the metabolic system to burn more, Saltiel said.
That, in turn, he said, "makes the diabetes go away, it makes their fatty liver (disease) disappear, and it makes the inflammation go away."
In an early stage clinical trial, the team led by Oral is seeking 10 people who have Type 2 diabetes or are obese. Participants must meet several other criteria, including specific body mass indexes and abnormal glucose levels.