Chinese scientists have identified the chemical mechanism of celastrol, which they call one of the most potent natural weight-loss agents, marking another step toward its possible future development into a major weight-loss drug.
The compound is extracted from the roots of thunder god vine, a toxic herb used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries to cure arthritis and autoimmune diseases. In TCM, however, it is used in tiny amounts, mainly to treat severe diseases, because of its potentially dangerous side effects.
A research team led by Zhang Xiaokun,
the Dean of School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Xiamen University, found celastrol can change a cell's metabolism by eliminating inflamed mitochondria, leading to weight loss. Mitochondria are the cell's "energy factory".