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Newly discovered molecule could lead to new treatments for obesity

June 29, 2017

A region of the brain called the hypothalamus, is thought by scientists to control the appetite and the researchers say they are the first to have pinpointed an agent that triggers an increase or decrease in appetite.

The scientists identified the molecule as nesfatin-1, which is produced naturally in the brain and they found that after they injected extra proteins into a group of rats' brains everyday for a period of ten days, the rats subsequently ate less and lost weight.

Masatomo Mori of the Medicine and Molecular Science department at Gunma University Graduate School of Medicine in Maebashi, says that as a counter, after injections of the anti-nesfatin-1 antibody, the rats showed increased appetite and a progressive increase in body weight.

Mori said the finding could pave the way for treating obesity, which has become a major health problem in the developing world as well as in economically advanced countries and prove more effective than existing hormone treatments such as sibutramine and orlistat in combating obesity.

According to the World Health Organisation there are at least a billion overweight adults across the world, 300 million of them considered obese, and obesity has been linked to chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and stroke, and some forms of cancer.

The article is published in the online version of the journal Nature.

Also although the study participants were in generally good health, disorders such as elevated blood pressure and diabetes could act as a bridge between high BMI and poorer cognitive function, as the thickening and hardening of the blood vessels supplying the brain can contribute to dementia.

Diabetes may also harm cognition by either leading to artery disease or via direct effects of the hormone insulin on brain cells.

Cournot says however regardless of the impact of weight on dementia risk there are already enough reasons to maintain a healthy weight.

Cournot suggests that as both dementia and obesity are increasing in epidemic proportions, the implied effects on mental function may motivate people to change their lifestyle habits.

The study was supported by grants from the National Center for Scientific Research, Institute of Aging, French Heart Foundation, Midu-Pyr?n?es Region, Ministry of Further Education and Research, Regional Social Security Services, and Ministry of Employment.

The study is published in the current issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology.