There are already skin patches that help people quit smoking … could patches that help them lose weight be far behind? Well, thanks to research being conducted at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, the things already exist – for mice, at least.
The underside of each patch is covered with hundreds of microneedles, which are loaded with one of two drugs: either Beta-3 adrenergic receptor agonist or thyroid hormone T3 triiodothyronine. Although both have been shown to reduce body fat by converting energy-storing white fat into energy-burning brown fat, they can have serious side effects if taken orally or via injections.
When they’re pressed onto an overweight mouse’s body for around two minutes, the microneedles (which are thinner in diameter than a human hair) break off and become embedded in the skin. They then harmlessly dissolve, slowly releasing their drug payload directly where it’s needed – into the underlying layer of white fat. The drugs subsequently convert it into brown fat, which gets burned off.