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New obesity drug has extra benefit: Also combats liver fat

Drugs to treat obesity and obesity-induced diabetes can lead to weight loss, helping the patient to a healthier life. Now a collaboration between SDU AstraZeneca presents a drug that can do both that and combat dangerous fat on the liver at the same time.

By Birgitte Svennevig, , 7/7/2020

Non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases are rapidly becoming a leading cause of chronic liver diseases.

Over time, too much fat on the liver leads to inflammation, damage of liver cells, cirrhosis of the liver and ultimately liver transplantation. People with chronic liver disease are at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

The condition non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is mainly treated with diet and lifestyle changes, but beyond this the treatment options are small.

Mimicking a hormone in the intestine

Now researchers from University of Southern Denmark have discovered and scientifically documented that a drug originally developed for diabetes is also effective against NASH in preclinical animal models. The study was conducted in collaboration with the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.

The new drug, named Cotadutide, works by mimicking the hormone oxyntomodulin found in the intestine. It is known to reduce food intake and increase energy consumption - two things that together lead to weight loss in obese people.

Professor Martin Røssel Larsen and Ph.D. Arkadiusz Nawrocki from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology are part of the international team of researchers behind the scientific study, which is published in the journal Nature Metabolism. 

Clinical studies under way

- We have documented a number of positive effects of Cotadutide in pre-clinical animal models for NASH: reduced steatosis and inflammation, reversed fibrosis, improved glucose control, reduced food intake and induced weight loss. In addition, we have seen less fat production in the liver and an improved metabolic function. We have contributed to documenting the molecular mechanism by which Cotadutide removes fat from the liver within a very short time in mouse models. Overall, we now have a better and stronger drug that can treat both NASH, obesity and diabetes simultaneously. That is a new thing, says Martin Røssel Larsen.

The plan is now to conduct clinical studies of NASH patients who will be treated with the new drug.

The scientific study is supported by AstraZeneca.


Martin Røssel Larsen's research focus is on proteins and diseases. He is Professor at Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

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Editing was completed: 07.07.2020