Harper’s Bazaar recently looked into new health innovations that could turn back the clock on aging bodies and offer hope for the future of beauty.
While these innovations are not yet on the market, studies on everything from exercise in a pill to groundbreaking hair growth techniques reveal that the beauty industry might be evolving faster than we thought.
Exercise in a pill
Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Florida recently developed a compound called SR9009. When injected into mice, this compound boosts their metabolism, builds muscle and increases their exercise endurance.
“The mice were able to run significantly longer and further than placebo-treated mice and they lost weight,” SR9009 developer Thomas Burris, chairman of the Department of Pharmacological & Physiological Science at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine in Missouri, explained to Harper’s Bazaar. “The changes in their muscles were similar to [what would have happened] if they had been endurance training.”
A 2012 study showed that even obese mice being fed a high-fat diet lost weight on SR9009 despite no changes in levels of physical activity. A synthetic REV-ERB agonist, SR9009 works by binding itself to the REV-ERB protein in cells, which leads to regulation of various metabolic processes, including circadian rhythms.
This research discovery could be helpful in treating type 2 diabetes and obesity. However, such a pill will likely lead to an extreme demand.
“The data suggests that the drug could be used by normal-weight individuals to increase metabolism and increase endurance,” Burris told Harper’s Bazaar. “Of course, approval by the FDA would be focused on treatment of a disease and it would not be approved for use for individuals to improve athleticism. We realize that a drug of this type could be used by endurance athletes as a doping agent.”
SR9009 still requires a few more years of testing, as researchers remain concerned about the risks associated with boosting metabolic rate, including potentially higher numbers of damaging free radicals in the body.
“An ‘exercise pill’ also won’t be able to mimic the complex physiological and psychological effects of exercise,” Heather Hausenblas, an associate professor of exercise science in the College of Health Sciences at Jacksonville University in Florida and a noted researcher on the effects of exercise on healthy aging, told Harper’s Bazaar. “After people exercise, they report feeling less anxious, less depressed and less stressed. They have more energy and sleep better.”
Flabby tummy eliminator
San Diego based pharmaceutical and biomedical product developer Lithera is currently taking a unique approach to the quest for flat abs. The company’s Lipo-202, currently in Phase 2 clinical trials, shrinks abdominal fat cells with targeted injections of the drug salmeterol xinafoate. The drug’s powder form is currently used as an asthma medication.
When injected, the drug activates receptors within fat cells and triggers the breakdown of triglycerides, which causes the cells to lose volume. The concept of injecting various drugs into fat cells is nothing new. In the 1990s, doctors throughout Europe and South America performed treatments called lipotherapy or lipodissolve, a form of mesotherapy. These treatments experienced mixed results before they lost popularity. However, the FDA withheld approval on safety grounds in the United States.
“Lipo-202 is not mesotherapy and is not injected similar to mesotherapy,” Lithera’s president and CEO George Mahaffey told Harper’s Bazaar. “We are injecting in different layers of the skin with a different drug, dose and treatment regimen.”
The FDA deemed Lipo-202 safe for Phase 2 trials. When used to treat asthma, salmeterol xinafoate stimulates the beta2-adrenergic receptor, involved in fat breakdown, synthesis of sugars and insulin secretion. When diabetics are placed on the drug for asthma, doctors carefully monitor their blood sugar for any changes. Lithera’s founder and CEO John Dobak developed the idea of injecting the same active ingredient into the stomachs of overweight and obese patients, a procedure that requires 20 tiny shots across the abdomen once a week for eight weeks.
“A temporary tattoo with a grid of targets is placed on the stomach and then one milliliter of the drug is injected into each site,” Marina Peredo, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York and one of the researchers involved in the trials. “The needle is so tiny, it looks like a human hair and no pain medication is needed. Even though liposuction has improved vastly over the years, this will be perfect for women who don’t want invasive surgery. There’s no bruising and no downtime. I can do the entire area in three minutes. And Lipo-202 is not intended to treat women with loose skin from multiple pregnancies.”
“It is for people who exercise and have a good diet but can’t lose their muffin tops or stomach pooch,” Mahaffey added. “If you think this is a way to eat ice cream and stay thin, it won’t work.”
Meant to eliminate double chins caused by submental fat, the new injectable ATX-101 proved effective in clinical testing. A synthetic version of a naturally occurring molecule in the body that breaks down dietary fat, ATX-101 is currently awaiting FDA approval.
“We administer it in a series of injections once a month for three months,” Derek H. Jones, a clinical associate professor of dermatology at UCLA and medical director of Skin Care and Laser Physicians of Beverly Hills, explained to Harper’s Bazaar. “ATX-101 dissolves the fat beneath the skin and the lipids get released into your body and used for energy just as if you had eaten a hamburger. The first indication that parent company Kythera Biopharmaceuticals chose to pursue for FDA approval is double chin, because demand for a nonsurgical treatment option is very high. But once the drug is approved, they will likely pursue approvals for other indications.”
One of the country’s foremost experts on injectables with practices in New York and Miami, dermatologist Fredric Brandt was a leader in testing ATX-101.
“In the past, the only options for submental fat were liposuction or a face-lift,” Brandt told Harper’s Bazaar. “We can do so much with noninvasive treatments for the rest of the face now. It will be great to be able to treat double chins without surgery as well. Botox can lessen the look of muscle cords, Ultherapy can tighten the skin and ATX-101 will be able to diminish the fat.”