Matthew Flick, PhD

A blood thinner could play a surprising role in limiting weight gain and disease, according to a 2017 study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

In mice fed a high-fat diet and in the tissue of patients with fatty liver disease, scientists found that the glycoprotein fibrinogen binds with the leukocyte receptor Mβ2-integrin to fuel diet-induced obesity and disease.

With obesity, the clotting system can become overactive, converting fibrinogen into insoluble fibrin strands, or thrombin, which leads to inflammation and tissue damage.

Matthew Flick, PhD, Division of Experimental Hematology and Cancer Biology, and his team used an FDA-approved blood thinner, dabigatran, to target the thrombin in the mice fed a high-fat diet. Dabigatran protected the mice from obesity-related disease.

The scientists are now exploring whether people currently taking dabigatran have less obesity and disease. If so, Flick says, it could provide strong rationale to use the drug as a preventive.