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Animal study shows a protein in the brain may regulate appetite

Quieting your stomach's call for food may start with your brain cells. New research from Columbia University Medical Center shows that manipulating a certain protein in mice's brains affected the rodents' appetite and metabolism by controlling how the brain responds to the hormone insulin.

The findings (subscription required), published today in Cell, could point toward developing a drug with the potential to regulate appetite in humans, who also have the protein in question.

ABC News reports:

The protein, called Gpr17, controls how the brain’s cells respond to insulin, one of the chief hormones involved in hunger and metabolism. When [researchers] injected a drug to activate GPr17, the rodents’ appetites increased; injecting a chemical to turn Gpr17 off made the mice eat less.

[Study lead Domenico Accili, MD] said controlling this protein in the brains of humans may be more than just a pipe dream. Many drugs currently on the market work by acting on the family of proteins to which Gpr17 belongs. The difference is those drugs, such as asthma medicines and blood thinners, don’t cross from the bloodstream into the brain.

“If we were able to tweak those medications so they cross into the brain, they could probably have positive effects against weight gain and help us control appetite,” Accili said.

Previously: Exploring the connection between food and brain function
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