They’ve been used as birth control and as a method to quit smoking, now slapping on a patch may be a weight-loss solution.

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and the University of North Carolina have designed a patch that may help people lose pounds by burning fat off specific areas of the body, such as the “love handles.”

The research team tested a medicated skin patch on mice and found that injecting medicine using the patch led to a decrease in fat where the patch was applied. The hope is the same can be done for humans.

The research, published Friday in ACS Nano, suggests the patch turned “white fat,” which stores excess energy, into “dark fat,” which burns fat to produce heat. It’s a process called “browning” and for years researchers have sought to use it as a way to fight obesity and diabetes. Study co-leader Li Qiang, a CUMC assistant professor of pathology and cell biology, said “browning” drugs exist but can cause side effects such as an upset stomach. In contrast, a patch lessens those side effects by injecting the medicine directly into the fat.

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Researchers affixed the patches, loaded with browning compounds, to either side of the abdomen of obese mice. Through microscopic needles, the medicine was injected.

The researchers found the mice saw a 20% fat reduction on the patch side. In leaner mice, the drugs caused an uptick in oxygen consumption, which is a measure of metabolic activity.

“Many people will no doubt be excited to learn we may be able to offer a noninvasive alternative to liposuction for reducing love handles,” Qiang said. “What’s much more important is that our patch may provide a safe and effective means of treating obesity and related metabolic disorders such as diabetes.”

Researchers haven’t tested the patch on humans.