Dallas UTSW Scientists Find Source of Rapid Weight Gain From Antipsychotics

Scientist Chen Liu and his colleagues published new findings that suggest a way to counteract the extra weight that can lead patients to stop taking their medication. Possibilities include a recently FDA-approved drug to treat genetic obesity.

Scientists from UT Southwestern’s Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute have found a molecular mechanism that can cause weight gain for people using a common antipsychotic medication.

Whats new, next, and reimagined in Dallas-Fort Worth ResearchAccording to UTSW, up to 20 percent of people who take risperidone—an antipsychotic prescribed for a wide variety of neuropsychiatric conditions—can add about 7 percent to their baseline weight in just a few weeks of treatment.

The extra weight not only contributes to other health problems like high blood cholesterol and type 2 diabetes, but leads many patients to stop using the medication.

Now, new findings published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine suggest a way to counteract that gain. Possibilities include a recently approved drug to treat genetic obesity.

If the effect can be shown in clinical trials, “it could give us a way to effectively treat patients for their neuropsychiatric conditions without this serious side effect,” says scientist and lead author Chen Liu, Ph.D, in a statement.

An effective strategy?

The Food and Drug Administration recently approved a drug to treat some genetic forms of obesity by promoting Mc4r activity. A gene called melanocortin (Mc4r) is linked to human obesity.

Giving mice the drug along with risperidone prevented weight gain —all while maintaining effective treatment in models of schizophrenia, Liu and his team found. It offers “hope that the strategy might be effective for human patients as well,” according to UTSW.

The UTSW study involved collaborations with UT Dallas and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology.

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