HCN News & Notes

Liver-targeting Drug Reverses Obesity, Lowers Cholesterol in Mice

AMHERST — A UMass Amherst biomedical engineer has used a nanogel-based carrier designed in his lab to deliver a drug exclusively to the liver of obese mice, effectively reversing their diet-induced disease.

“The treated mice completely lost their gained weight, and we did not see any untoward side effects,” said S. Thai Thayumanavan, distinguished professor of Chemistry and Biomedical Engineering. “Considering 100 million Americans have obesity and related cardiometabolic disorders, we became pretty excited about this work.”

Efforts to translate these findings to humans are being pursued by a startup company, Cyta Therapeutics, which was founded at the UMass Institute for Applied Life Sciences (IALS) based on the nanogel technologies from the Thayumanavan lab. In late July, Cyta Therapeutics won the Judges’ Choice Best Startup honor at the 16th annual Massachusetts Life Sciences Innovation Day in Boston.

“There is a significant amount of development work to be conducted between mice and humans,” Thayumanavan said, “but we are hoping it will eventually become a drug.”

Senior author Thayumanavan, director of the Center for Bioactive Delivery at IALS, explained his team’s findings in a paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Nexus. Ruiling Wu, doing research for her Ph.D. in chemistry in Thayumanavan’s lab and at the Center for Bioactive Delivery, is the paper’s lead author. Wu recently graduated and now works for a pharmaceutical company in Boston.