Researchers find ‘switch’ in the brain that helps control appetite

Researchers find 'switch' in the brain that helps control appetite

Researchers have identified brain cells that can send signals to stop over-eating, paving the way for potential new anti-obesity treatments.

Their findings could hopefully pave the way for new anti-obesity treatments, which effectively stimulate the brain cells.

Tests on mice showed that switching off the satiety neurons caused them to eat more and double their weight in three weeks (ugh, been there).

Researchers found that when the cells’ function was restored, the mice immediately reduced the amount they ate every day by about 25 per cent.

The cells are in a small brain region called the paraventricular nucleus, which was already known to send and receive signals related to appetite and food intake.

Dr Richard Huganir, director of the Department of Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said: ‘When the type of brain cell we discovered fires and sends off signals, our laboratory mice stop eating soon after.

‘The signals seem to tell the mice they’ve had enough.’
One particular enzyme – called OGT – was found to play a key role in the process by stimulating connections between the cells.

When the gene for OGT was silenced, the mice over-ate. Although they consumed the same number of meals as normal mice, they ate bigger portions.

The findings are published in the latest edition of the journal, Science.
Co-author Olof Lagerlof, a PhD student in Dr Huganir’s laboratory, said: ‘There are still many things about this system that we don’t know, but we think that glucose works with OGT in these cells to control “portion size” for the mice.

‘We believe we have found a new receiver of information that directly affects brain activity and feeding behaviour, and if our findings bear out in other animals, including people, they may advance the search for drugs or other means of controlling appetites.’