Obesity is defined as an increase in body weight beyond the normal range resulting from the excessive accumulation of fat in the body. The condition is determined using the so-called body mass index (BMI), which is defined as body weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters. The increasing occurrence of obesity is a serious medical problem in practically all developed countries. In the Czech Republic, more than half of the adult population is overweight (defined as a BMI of 25–29.9 kg/m2) or obese (BMI > 30 kg/m2), and the number of such patients continues to grow.
Obesity shortens life expectancy
Obesity is far more than a mere esthetic problem – it is a very serious disease leading to significantly shortened life expectancy and an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases (heart attack, stroke), certain cancers (liver cancer, gynecologic cancer), lipid metabolism disorders (so-called dyslipidemia), and, above all, type 2 diabetes mellitus, which typically occurs in middle-aged and older individuals and is associated with an unhealthy lifestyle. The cost of treating obesity and related complications makes up 20% of the overall cost of healthcare and is constantly rising.
A healthy lifestyle, namely changes to the diet and more exercise, still represents the best way to fight obesity. But often that is not enough. Surgical treatment of obesity (bariatric surgery) is expensive and does not always eliminate the negative impacts of obesity on metabolism and health. Because there are no drugs available yet with proven long-term safety and efficacy that can achieve substantial and lasting weight reduction, obesity remains a serious medical problem.
What we’re working on and what we’ve accomplished
The goal of the collaboration between IKEM, IOCB, and IPHYS is the development of new drugs offering effective and long-lasting weight reduction while also facilitating prevention of obesity-related complications, namely type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. We're also working to reveal the mechanisms that protect some obese patients from the development of obesity-related diseases. Such mechanisms may be novel drug targets.
Collaboration is underway on a project devoted to lipidized peptides, which significantly reduce body mass while improving diabetic compensation. Research is being conducted in parallel with focus on both the antiobesity effect and the antidiabetic effect, which are closely linked, and is currently in the stage of preclinical studies on experimental mouse and rat models. Thus far, the work has indicated very good potential for this therapy.
Participating in the research is the laboratory of Dr. Lenka Maletínská of IOCB, Prof. Martin Haluzík and team at IKEM, and Dr. Jaroslav Kuneš and coworkers at IPHYS. The joint effort has resulted not only in several publications in prestigious journals but also in a number of patents, which have opened the door to a license agreement and scientific collaboration with a global pharmaceutical company pursuing development of a new obesity therapy.
At IPHYS, the team of Dr. Jan Kopecký is exploring the role played by adipose tissue in the development of obesity-related diseases. Research has shown that pathological changes in the metabolism of this tissue in obesity can be reversed with a combination of certain drugs and omega-3 fatty acids, thus reducing the risk of diabetes. The results have given rise to a concept known as “healthy adipose tissue” and related new studies in collaboration with IKEM and IOCB.