Novel Noninvasive Approaches to the Treatment of Obesity: From Pharmacotherapy to Gene Therapy

Endocr Rev. 2022 May 12;43(3):507-557. doi: 10.1210/endrev/bnab034.


Recent insights into the pathophysiologic underlying mechanisms of obesity have led to the discovery of several promising drug targets and novel therapeutic strategies to address the global obesity epidemic and its comorbidities. Current pharmacologic options for obesity management are largely limited in number and of modest efficacy/safety profile. Therefore, the need for safe and more efficacious new agents is urgent. Drugs that are currently under investigation modulate targets across a broad range of systems and tissues, including the central nervous system, gastrointestinal hormones, adipose tissue, kidney, liver, and skeletal muscle. Beyond pharmacotherapeutics, other potential antiobesity strategies are being explored, including novel drug delivery systems, vaccines, modulation of the gut microbiome, and gene therapy. The present review summarizes the pathophysiology of energy homeostasis and highlights pathways being explored in the effort to develop novel antiobesity medications and interventions but does not cover devices and bariatric methods. Emerging pharmacologic agents and alternative approaches targeting these pathways and relevant research in both animals and humans are presented in detail. Special emphasis is given to treatment options at the end of the development pipeline and closer to the clinic (ie, compounds that have a higher chance to be added to our therapeutic armamentarium in the near future). Ultimately, advancements in our understanding of the pathophysiology and interindividual variation of obesity may lead to multimodal and personalized approaches to obesity treatment that will result in safe, effective, and sustainable weight loss until the root causes of the problem are identified and addressed.

Keywords: adipose tissue; central nervous system; gastrointestinal hormones; nanotherapy; novel drug delivery systems; obesity; pharmacotherapy.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Obesity Agents* / therapeutic use
  • Genetic Therapy
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Obesity / drug therapy
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Weight Loss


  • Anti-Obesity Agents