South Dakota State University researcher Gareth Davies, the scientific director for the Avera Institute for Human Behavioral Genetics in Sioux Falls, said collaborators from SDSU and Avera have published several articles about the anti-obesity compound, which they call AIHBG-10.
“We studied a natural product used extensively in Chinese medicine to treat obesity,” Davies said. “We showed that we can use this compound to stop the development of fat cells and to change the gene expression in these cells and basically prevent them developing from a pre-fat cell to a fat cell. We studied the response in cell lines and in animals, and now Avera is beginning a clinical trial in humans.”
Davies noted that the anti-obesity compound AIHBG-10 may have possible applications in treating side effects resulting from some medications.
“We found this anti-obesity compound is very, very useful for reducing the obesity associated with anti-pyschotic treatment,” Davies said. “We have a lot of individuals, bipolar and schizophrenic individuals, who are on anti-psychotic drugs. One of the severe side effects is a phenomenal weight gain. Many times this leads to noncompliance with medication because the individuals are suffering so much weight gain.”
A second clinical trial beginning in early 2011 will use the anti-obesity compound in individuals who are being treated with anti-psychotic drugs in order to determine how well it reduces the weight gains associated with anti-psychotic drug treatments.
Davies credits his former doctoral student at SDSU, Yueshan Hu, with taking an important role in the research. Hu is a certified herbalist and was an assistant professor of traditional Chinese medicine in Guangzhou University in his native China. Hu, who is now a postdoctoral fellow with Davies’ lab at the Avera Institute for Human Behavioral Genetics was also named graduate student of the year in SDSU’s College of Pharmacy.
“Some of the herbal combinations really have fantastic effects,” Hu said, “but we don’t know the mechanism. We don’t know why.”
Hu said his doctoral work at South Dakota State University and now his postdoctoral work with the Avera Institute for Human Behavioral Genetics has given him the opportunity to begin unraveling some of those mechanisms in the laboratory.
Avera and SDSU have filed a patent for the anti-obesity compound. With the help of South Dakota Innovation Partners, an early stage venture capital firm, the scientists involved have also formed a start-up company to work to develop the anti-obesity compoundtechnology.
Davies, until now an associate professor in SDSU’s Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, will leave his university post as of Jan. 1 to concentrate solely on his work with Avera. He remains an adjunct associate professor at South Dakota State.