March 07, 2007

Compound may treat a variety of conditions

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. — A synthetic compound could help fight fat and cut the chances of contracting a cluster of other conditions — cumulatively known as the metabolic syndrome — that can lead to heart disease, a team of multidisciplinary researchers spearheaded by Southern Illinois University Carbondale has found.

"A lot of drugs now are treating either obesity alone or the individual conditions of the metabolic syndrome — fat around the middle (the classic 'apple' shape), high blood pressure, high cholesterol and tryglicerides, and insulin resistance, all of which can lead to heart disease, " said team leader William J. Banz of SIUC's Department of Animal Science, Food and Nutrition, part of the College of Agricultural Sciences.

"These drugs are not treating the whole syndrome per se, and some of them can cause a marked weight gain. Treating obesity plus the accompanying metabolic syndrome is novel. A lot of drugs in the pipeline (of development) aren't doing that."

Cal Y. Meyers, a chemist at SIUC who holds a weight-loss patent on the compound, began working with its weight-reducing properties, in the early '90s. Meyers heads the University's Meyers Institute for Interdisciplinary Research in Organic and Medicinal Chemistry,

After finding that the compound decreased weight significantly in both male and female rats, Banz and his team decided to take a closer look at what else the compound might do. Follow-up research conducted at SIUC suggests it may also help treat adult-onset diabetes as well as the body's resistance to insulin, which characteristically precedes the disease.

"Being overweight or obese is definitely part of the metabolic syndrome," Banz said.

"However, the metabolic syndrome as a whole is the real culprit when it comes to increased risk for heart disease and adult-onset diabetes. That's why we needed to further test this compound. What we found was that it was beneficial in reducing body weight and risk factors for the metabolic syndrome and diabetes."

The research team published its findings in the journal "Obesity Research" in November 2005.

Most recently, Banz and his colleagues along with April D. Strader of SIUC's Department of Physiology have studied how the compound did in treating glucose intolerance, a key factor in the development and progression of diabetes. These additional findings will be presented at a conference on experimental biology April 29 in Washington, D.C.

"We found extremely encouraging results," Banz said. "It improved glucose tolerance and decreases other risk factors associated with the metabolic syndrome."

Banz believes those combined results are strong enough to move the compound to the next stage.

"We would like for a drug company to pick up the intellectual property option and develop it (as an experimental drug for use in treating the human metabolic syndrome)," he said.

"We (at the University) can't afford to run clinical trials — that's where pharmaceutical companies are critical. We hope to find an industry partner to develop therapeutic uses for this compound."

Support for the project has come from Charles River Genetic Models in Wilmington, Maine, PreClinOmics Inc. in Indianapolis, Ind., the Fraternal Order of Eagles and the Meyers Institute.