Bendigo-based researchers Lachlan Van Schaik and Will Sievers are almost 12-months into a project looking at the effect the two common drugs have on neural circuitry specific for triggering metabolism through brown adipose tissue thermogenesis.
“The brain controls a lot more things than people think it does, such as how fast our metabolism works,” Will said.
Will’s studies are concentrating on estrogen, while Lachlan is looking at caffeine.
Both researchers believe targeting this central neural circuit pharmacologically may trigger a specific sympathetic response to stimulate the body’s brown adipose tissue to produce heat, and as a result, waste away fat.
“They’re two really different drugs but they both target the activation of the brown adipose tissue,” Lachlan said.
“The tissue’s main role is to defend us from the cold, however certain drugs activate this tissue as well.
“If we can target the specific receptors responsible for activating the tissue, or brown fat, it then becomes an issue of synthesising a pharmaceutical drug that targets those receptors.
“Historically pharmacological weight loss treatments have been fraught with failure and many of the drugs used have significant side effects.
“Through our research we’re hoping to further our understanding of the neural circuitry of metabolism and ultimately perhaps alleviate a lot of those side effects.”
Will said although the implications of their research could have far-reaching effects for everyday people, any eventual drug would not be a “magic pill”.
“It will have to be used in conjunction with dieting and exercise but some people have such a slow metabolism that dieting and exercise are not enough and they need some extra help,” he said.
Will and Lachlan credited their former lecturer Dr Joseph Rathner for proposing the research project, and continuing to mentor them through their research.