The natural peptide that could reverse obesity-related diseases

The natural peptide that could reverse obesity-related diseases
© shutterstock/Fuss Sergey

Researchers from the University of Birmingham have found that a peptide called PEPITEM could revolutionise the treatment of obesity-related diseases. 

Using an animal obesity model, researchers investigated whether PEPITEM could prevent and even reverse obesity-related diseases’ effects in the pancreas if delivered via a slow-release pump. The experiment confirmed that the protein significantly reduced the enlargement of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. PEPITEM also reduced immune cell migration into various tissues. 

Obesity can reduce life expectancy by three to ten years, depending on the severity of the condition. Many obesity-related diseases contribute to shortened life expectancy, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, atherosclerosis, asthma, and several types of cancer. 

“We have found a new therapeutic approach that could provide new drugs to tackle the root cause of obesity-related diseases by preventing the damage caused by systemic inflammation,” said Dr Helen McGettrick, who led the study. 

The study, titled ‘PEPITEM modulates leukocyte trafficking to reduce obesity-induced inflammation‘, has been published in Clinical & Experimental Immunology.

How does PEPITEM work?

PEPITEM was discovered by University of Birmingham researchers in 2015. According to the researchers, the protein can control the onset and severity of auto-immune and chronic inflammatory diseases. 

Obesity can cause damage to the pancreas, reduce insulin sensitivity, and alter the metabolism of fatty tissue. Obesity also leads to a low-level inflammatory response across the body that causes white blood cells to enter visceral adipose tissue and the peritoneal cavity. 

The researchers have shown that the adiponectin-PEPITEM pathway connects this inflammatory response to obesity and changes in the pancreas. Through the animal model, the researchers proved that PEPITEM could reduce the enlargement of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas caused by a high-fat diet. The protein also reduced the number of white blood cells in mice. 

The researchers also examined whether PEPITEM could reverse the effects of obesity-related diseases. The researchers placed mice on a high-fat diet, allowing them to develop obesity-related diseases. The team found more positive results after treating the mice with PEPITEM. 

Developing a treatment for obesity-related diseases

“Until now, we have understood very little about how the inflammation that accompanies obesity drives pathology. These results show us that PEPITEM can both prevent and reverse the impact that obesity has on metabolism. The next stage is to translate these exciting results into therapeutics that can be used in humans,” said Dr Asif Iqbal from the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Inflammation and Ageing and Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences. 

“We are all very excited about these latest results. PEPITEM is a naturally occurring peptide.  We have already shown it has effects on several organs, and now for the first time, we have shown that PEPITEM is effective in a model of a disease process that is not driven by the immune system alone,” added Professor Ed Rainger, co-author of the study. 

The researchers recently filed patent applications covering all PEPITEM compositions and their therapeutic uses. Further applications covering its use in treating obesity-related diseases, such as chronic low-grade systemic inflammation and pancreatic beta-cell damage, have also been submitted.

Subscribe to our newsletter


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here