File this under “Cool, but not the best experimental design and maybe a bad idea in humans (but maybe a good idea under some circumstances)”–
Effects of Novel Vaccines on Weight Loss in Diet-Induced-Obese (DIO) Mice, pdf: www.jasbsci.com/content/pdf/2049-1891-3-21.pdf
There has been some suggestion in the scientific literature that treating humans/animals with GH or IGF-1 could lead to weight loss… Which has lead to some people going to extreme lengths to take illegal HGH or IGF-1 to try to lose weight.
Why not try something completely different– A vaccine that could provide the theoretical benefits of HGH/IGF-1, without people needing to resort to illegal exogenous hormone treatments?
The logic in this paper is, if you make a vaccine against somatostatin, antibodies to somatostatin could in effect, inhibit the inhibitor, thus increasing levels of GH and IGF-1 in obese patients. This increase GH and IGF-1 might help obese patients lose weight.
So to test this, the researchers put some mice on a junk-food diet– 60% fat. They then gave some mice a placebo, and some the somatostatin vaccine. The vaccine mice lost 12-13% of their body weight in four days.
The researchers were so shocked at these results, they scaled back the ‘booster’ vaccine because they were worried they might kill their mice :-/
So, it worked! Theoretically, this vaccine would be a good ‘booster’ to combine with diet/exercise/surgical approaches to weight loss.
Now, it definitely has to be in conjunction with other approaches. This vaccine isnt a carte blanche for non-obese people to eat nothing but Poptarts and sit in front of a computer all day. Over the course of the study, the vaccine mice eventually got back to their pre-vaccine weight. Actually, they gained it all back, plus some more. So, getting this vaccine would not mean that you could keep eating whatever you want, how much you want (the vaccine mice ate the same amount of the junk-food diet as the placebo mice).
There is also the small fact that this vaccine is inducing autoimmunity. Your own immune system is ‘attacking’ your own somatostatin. There might be some long-term effects of this vaccine that are Very Bad, especially since somatostatin also plays a role in chemical pathways in your brain.
And what if a woman gets this vaccine because her weight is having a negative effect on her fertility, so she wants to lose weight to have a baby. She has baby, and passes these anti-somatostatin antibodies on to baby during breast feeding. What happens to baby?
So again, is this a neat paper? Sure! Is this another cool example of scientists using genetically modified viruses to treat diseases? Sure! Have vaccines given us a silver bullet to obesity? Nope! Not yet!