Novel treatments for obesity and osteoporosis: targeting apoptotic pathways in adipocytes

Curr Med Chem. 2005;12(19):2215-25. doi: 10.2174/0929867054864886.


Obesity and osteoporosis have grave consequences for human health, quality of life, and even the efficiency of the labor force and economy. However, these pathologies share a common cell progenitor, revealing a surprising target for drug research and development. Recent findings show that high adipocyte count in bone marrow is directly related to bone loss, as fat cells replace osteoblasts (or bone-forming cells). The objective of this review is to examine the importance of adipocyte apoptosis in the treatment of obesity and/or osteoporosis, with special emphasis on natural products as promising leads for drug development. We have induced in vivo adipocyte apoptosis, using leptin, ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF), beta adrenergic agonists and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) in rodents. The results of leptin treatments on rats are suppressed food intake, reduced body weight, reduced body fat, adipocyte apoptosis, and elevated energy expenditure. Further, leptin treatment of leptin-deficient (ob/ob) mice increases endosteal bone formation and bone mineral density. Adipocyte apoptosis has also been induced in vitro using tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), (-)-epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) from Camellia sinensis and ajoene, from Allium sativum. Natural products have potential for inducing apoptosis of adipose tissue, inhibiting bone marrow adipogenesis and increasing the expression of osteogenic factors in bone, thereby yielding effective treatments for obesity and osteoporosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / drug effects*
  • Adipocytes / metabolism
  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Anti-Obesity Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-Obesity Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Bone Marrow / metabolism
  • Catechin / analogs & derivatives
  • Catechin / pharmacology
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Ciliary Neurotrophic Factor / pharmacology
  • Disulfides / pharmacology
  • Flavonoids / chemistry
  • Flavonoids / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Leptin / metabolism
  • Linoleic Acid / pharmacology
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology
  • Obesity / drug therapy*
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Osteoporosis / drug therapy*
  • Osteoporosis / metabolism
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / pharmacology


  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists
  • Anti-Obesity Agents
  • Ciliary Neurotrophic Factor
  • Disulfides
  • Flavonoids
  • Leptin
  • Plant Extracts
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Catechin
  • ajoene
  • Linoleic Acid
  • epigallocatechin gallate