Vaccine to Treat Obesity Tested on Mice

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Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory/US Department of Energy/Science Photo Library, “‘New Clue in the Fight Against Diabetes,”, Nov. 24, 2008
A new study assessing the effectiveness of two different vaccines in reducing weight gain and increasing weight loss in mice was published on July 9, 2012 in the Journal of Animal Science and Biotechnology. The study, “Effects of Novel Vaccines on Weight Loss in Diet-Induced-Obese Mice,” may eventually lead to a human vaccine that could reset the body’s metabolism and prompt weight loss even with a modest change in calories consumed or burned up in exercise.


The study tried two different versions of a vaccine designed to reduce production of the hormone somatostatin in mice that had become obese after they were routinely fed high-fat food. According to a BioMed Central press release, somatostatin “inhibits the action of growth hormone (GH) and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), both of which increase metabolism and result in weight loss. Vaccination with modified somatostatin causes the body to generate antibodies to somatostatin… and subsequently increase energy expenditure and weight loss.”

The weight gain slowed for those obese mice who got either one of the anti-obesity vaccines – even though the mice continued to get the same high-fat diet. By the end of the study, the weight gain of vaccine-treated mice was a smaller proportion of overall body weight than it was for those mice that received a placebo. Additionally, the mice that received either vaccine formulation had higher levels of both GH and IGF-1.

“This study demonstrates the possibility of treating obesity with vaccination,” said lead researcher Keith N. Haffer from Braasch Biotech LLC of Garretson, South Dakota. “Although further studies are necessary to discover the long term implications of these vaccines, treatment of human obesity with vaccination would provide physicians with a drug- and surgical- free option against the weight epidemic.” He said that obese dogs and pigs could be “next in line” for testing with the experimental vaccine.

The United Kingdom’s National Health Service, in an analysis taking issue with the design, implementation, and conclusions of the study, stated: “These results are not hugely encouraging but have been awarded significant hype in the media… The idea of a treatment that allows people to continue to eat whatever they like and not gain weight is still fantasy.”

The debate over whether or not obesity is a disease grows as obesity rates and the cost of treating obesity-related conditions increase in the United States. Proponents stress that obesity is a disease because it is a result of genetics and biological factors, or illnesses that cause weight gain. Opponents argue that obesity is not a disease because it is the result of a person’s chosen lifestyle, eating habits, and environment.


Hilary Glover, “Overweight? There’s a Vaccine for That,”, July 8, 2012

Keith N. Haffer, “Effects of Novel Vaccines on Weight Loss in Diet-Induced-Obese (DIO) Mice,” Journal of Animal Science and Biotechnology, July 9, 2012

Melissa Healy, “Obesity Vaccine Takes a Step Forward,”, July 9, 2012

United Kingdom National Health Service, “‘Obesity Vaccine’ Hope,”, July 9, 2012