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A drug called Fenretinide, that was initially developed to combat breast cancer, could be used as treatment for obesity and type 2 diabetes.

The finding comes from a study by researchers at the University of Aberdeen’s Institute of Medical Sciences in Scotland. The research team, led by Dr Nimesh Mody, has been testing the effects of Fenretinide for a number of years.

Previously, they have shown that Fenretinide reduces obesity and type 2 diabetes in mice fed a high fat diet. In their latest study, the researchers looked at the effects of the drug specifically in fat cells and the effects in mice.

The drug has similar effects as vitamin A, which is known to help regulate obesity and blood sugar levels. The name for drugs which have similar effects as vitamin A are known as retinoids. The study showed that, in addition this effect, the drug reduced the production of ceramide. High levels of ceramide production are known to increase the effects of insulin resistance and therefore, over time, to contribute to obesity and high blood sugar levels.

Dr Mody stated: ““We think that the combination of these unrelated effects is what makes Fenretinide a potential safe, anti-obesity, anti-diabetic treatment.”

The drug holds promise but we won’t know the true safety profile of the drug until human trials are initiated and completed.

Before wider trials are started, Dr Mody’s team will be carrying out further research to test whether the beneficial effects of Fenretinide are related to the vitamin A-like properties or not. To do this, the research team will test two different versions of the drug, one that has vitamin A-like properties and one that does not.

Dr Mody explained: “Through these experiments, we aim to find out whether the beneficial effects of Fenretinide in safely reducing obesity and type-2 diabetes is due to retinoid-like properties.”