Small brain cell group could tackle obesity, say Aberdeen researchers

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Image source, PA

A small group of brain cells could be harnessed to tackle obesity, Aberdeen researchers have said.

Scientists at the University of Aberdeen's Rowett Institute said their appetite research had led them to a particular part of the brain.

They say that by influencing those particular cells with drugs they were able to reduce food intake.

Prof Lora Heisler, the lead scientist, said the discovery "opens the door to new medications".

The study was carried out using mice.

Image source, Getty Images

Prof Heisler explained: "We set out to discover how appetite is controlled and this led us to a particular part of the brain.

"This part of the brain is called the nucleus of the solitary tract and it is really important in vital functions that keep us alive, including integrating food intake information from our gut.

"In this crucial brain area, we found a small group of cells that control appetite.

"We used new sophisticated techniques that allowed us to turn on these cells with drugs, and by doing this, were able to reduce food intake."

'New strategies'

Prof Heisler, chairwoman in human nutrition at the Rowett Institute, added: "Approximately 60% of people in the UK are overweight and one in four are clinically obese.

"Because obesity is linked to serious medical illnesses such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes, we urgently need to discover new strategies to tackle obesity to improve health in the group of people where diet and exercise alone have not been effective.

"Our discovery opens the door to new medications that could be developed to control appetite and improve health."

The new study has been published in Cell Metabolism.

The research was funded by a £452,000 grant from the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). Other funding came from the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council.

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