One step closer to a pill for weight loss without diet or exercise

One step closer to a pill for weight loss without diet or exercise

– A new screening method will help to discover drugs that force the body to burn fat reserves.

(STOCKHOLM) Symcel— a company providing real-time metabolic measurements for cell culture with their product the calScreener™  ̶  was recently involved in a publication showing that it is possible to screen for compounds that force the body into thermogenesis, a state which could burn fat irrespective of diet and exercise.

The study was carried out by the group of Professor Tore Bengtsson from Stockholm University and was published in Communications Biology. They tested specialized fat cells called brown and brite adipocytes which are known to undergo thermogenesis, a state where the cells burn fat and produce heat. In the study, the research team stimulated the adipocytes and found that they could measure the heat coming from them using isothermal microcalorimetry.

“It has been my dream to be able to directly measure heat from these cells. With the ability to directly measure cellular heat production using this novel method, it is now possible to screen for novel thermogenic activators to develop new therapeutics for various metabolic diseases,” says Professor Tore Bengtsson.

The study also investigated an important protein for the activation of thermogenesis. Data showed that adipocytes lacking the UCP1 protein produced much less heat than those adipocytes that had the protein. UCP1 is a protein that is embedded in the membrane of the mitochondria which are sub-cellular powerhouses. This protein is responsible for heat production by forcing the mitochondria to work harder, which generates more heat.

“It’s been amazing to be involved in this project. Using CalScreener to understand how cells produce heat and to develop new screening methods for anti-obesity drugs has been extremely rewarding,” says Hamza Bokhari, one of the PhD students involved in this study.

“We are very happy that Professor Bengtsson’s team, which is at the forefront of developing novel treatments for metabolic diseases, has paved the way in the use of the calScreener™ for improved drug development. In this elegant study, Dr Bengtsson´s team shows that Symcel´s microcalorimeter is highly sensitive and enables direct, accurate measurement of thermogenesis. This can increase the efficiency of getting novel drugs out faster and help millions of people suffering from metabolic disorders,” says Jesper Ericsson, CEO of Symcel.

Bokhari, M.H., Halleskog, C., Åslund, A. et al. Isothermal microcalorimetry measures UCP1-mediated thermogenesis in mature brite adipocytes. Commun Biol 4, 1108 (2021).  


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About Symcel

Symcel is leading a new era in metabolic measurements for use in rapid diagnostics and improved therapies. They provide a novel cell-based assay tool for real-time cellular metabolism measurements. Their solution is a fast, label-free phenotypic screening technology for direct measurements on cell behaviour and drug responses. Symcel was founded in 2004 by Dr. Dan Hallén and Prof. Ingemar Wadsö, leading authorities in bioactivity measurements. The current team at Symcel has extensive experience within the biotechnology industry and diagnostics.