NHRI holds talks on drug that reduces weight loss pills side effects

02/22/2021 03:49 PM
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Lo Leu-wei (羅履維) / Photo courtesy of the NHRI
Lo Leu-wei (羅履維) / Photo courtesy of the NHRI

Taipei, Feb. 22 (CNA) The National Health Research Institutes (NHRI) is currently in talks with Taiwanese companies to potentially mass produce a unique nanomaterial that has been found to reduce the side effects of anti-obesity drugs, an NHRI researcher said Monday.

Lo Leu-wei (羅履維), a member of a research team at the NHRI's Institute of Biomedical Engineering and Nanomedicine, said obesity is a disease of modern civilization, with obese people comprising 40 percent of the global population, citing World Health Organization (WHO) statistics.

Figures from Taiwan's Health Promotion Agency indicate that 26.7 percent of people in the country were classified as obese in 2018.

Obesity can cause many chronic diseases and therefore weight control is one of the world's most urgent health issues, Lo said.

Most diet pills currently on the market contain Orlistat, a lipase inhibitor that reduces the degradation and in vivo absorption of gastrointestinal fat, resulting in excess fat being excreted from the large intestine.

Such drugs are often associated with some unpleasant side effects, such as diarrhea and oily stool, Lo said.

In recent years, his research team has succeeded in using mesoporous silica nanoparticles (MSNs), a unique nanomaterial, to reduce the side effects of these lipase inhibitor-based anti-obesity drugs.

According to Lo, the high surface area of MSNs maximizes their oil absorption and gelatinization capabilities.

The silicon dioxide that comprises MSNs is also biocompatible, and has been widely utilized in food additives and as an antacid agent in gastrointestinal medications.

Based on the above characteristics, MSNs are attractive as a material for combination therapy with Orlistat, Lo noted.

The key concepts and technologies relevant to this invention have already won several awards in Taiwan and been granted patent rights by authorities in Taiwan, the United States, Canada, the European Union and China.

The NHRI is now in talks with Taiwanese companies to mass produce the MSNs in the near future. Once approved by local food and drug authorities, MSNs can be used as a drug for combination therapy with Orlistat or as a dietary supplement, Lo added.

(By Chang Ming-hsuan and Joseph Yeh)


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