Dr. Mariana Monteiro, professor at the University of Porto, Portugal stated that such human use vaccine wouldn’t have the drawbacks of the currently available weight-loss drugs-serious side effects and short term use. An example of such drug is Merida, recently withdrawn because of the high heart attack and stroke risk it presented. The vaccine proved to be safe to use on mice and also had a long term effect.
Despite the optimistic results, there are others who question its realistic effects: “I think that an obesity vaccine is pretty far-fetched,” said Dr. Pieter Cohen, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a general internist at Cambridge Health Alliance. “It’s extremely unlikely we’ll be able to develop a vaccine that will prevent weight gain” Cohen said.
Dr. Monteiro attached ghrelin to a virus-like particle which the body’s immune system would suppress by developing antibodies. The results in mice were amazing: unlike the mice which didn’t receive the vaccine, the injected obese mice ate 50% less and consumed more energy. The effect should be lasting for 4 years in humans as it lasted for 18 months in mice. However supplementary research would be conducted in order to observe any other possible effects on the body’s proper functioning. The approach of Dr. Monteiro is different and safer than that used in a previous 2006 study.
Cohen continued to argue that the appetite of a person is triggered by many factors and blocking one hormone would not solve the weight loss problem. “Most of us are skeptical that ‘turning off the ghrelin switch’ is the universal answer to all obesity,” said Dr. Sunil Bhoyrul, a bariatric surgeon at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, Calif.
Dr. Monteiro’s study was introduced in Boston, at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society on June 5th.