Findings from a new mouse study revealed that a drug class used widely to treat acute migraine and headaches also play a beneficial role in losing weight.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are around 42% of people in the U.S. with obesity, a condition that’s known to increase the risk of life-altering diseases like cancer, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
What’s more, previous studies have associated obesity with an increased risk of death from COVID-19.
A new study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine found that triptans, a drug class used to treat cluster headaches and acute migraine, may also help with weight loss.
For the study, researchers administered six prescription triptans to mice after an 18-hour fast before measuring their post-fast food intake. The researchers discovered that four of the six triptans suppressed hunger from fasting, with frovatriptan providing the strongest effect.
To measure how frovatriptan impacted food intake and weight, the researchers engineered mice to lack either Htr1b or Htr2c — serotonin receptors targeted by fen-phen and lorcaserin. The team found that frovatriptan didn’t affect mice without Htr1b but affected mice without Htr2c.
The researchers then tested frovatriptan’s anti-obesity effects by feeding male mice a high-fat diet for 7 weeks. The mice were divided and given either frovatriptan or a saline solution.
They found that a daily dose of the drug reduced body weight by as much as 3.58% within 24 days, while mice given the saline solution gained an average weight of 5.83% during the same period.
“Triptans bind and activate the serotonin 1B receptors. We find these receptors in a small group of neurons in the hypothalamus that normally promotes food intake. Activation of serotonin 1B receptors in these cells inhibits their function and thus suppresses appetite,” said Chen Liu, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the Department of Internal Medicine and Neuroscience at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and one of the study’s authors.
The researchers added that future work is warranted to evaluate the effects of triptans on appetite and body weight. Since the study was done on mice, it remains to be seen whether the same results would translate to humans.