Scientists Find Way To Create Anti-Obesity Drugs

More than 90 million Americans with obesity are estimated to be struggling with following lifestyle changes and strict diets in an effort to reduce weight. This may be due to some factors such as health problems that restrict them from exercising or eating certain foods. 

This led scientists to seek other ways to help obese or overweight people in their weight loss efforts. One potential approach is providing anti-obesity drugs that target brain cells which control hunger. 

A new study, published in the journal Cell, provides information on how scientists could control a group of brain cells that regulate hunger and control energy expenditure. Learning how to manage these cells could help people balance calorie intake and energy, researchers said. 

Researchers from Jeffrey M. Friedman and Princeton University said their study is among the first efforts to look at manipulating the brain cells that control calorie intake. 

For the study, the team mapped the brain of mice through a 3D-imaging technique to see the areas activated by ambient temperature, which triggers the energy-burning process in the body. Results show increased activity in the hypothalamus and a part of the brainstem called dorsal raphe nucleus.

The researchers said the temperature affected the neurons that play a key role in controlling hunger. 

"Our new findings demonstrate that these neurons regulate energy balance by modulating both food intake and energy expenditure through partially overlapping circuit mechanisms," Alexander Nectow, lead researcher from Princeton University, said in a statement

The team continued to analyze what is called as “hunger neurons” to see their effects on body weight. Through biochemical techniques they were able to turn the temperature-sensitive neurons on and off. 

Turning the neurons on caused lower heat production, metabolic activity, and overall energy expenditure. However, the researchers found that suppressing these neurons increased heat production and made animal subjects less hungry. 

"When you inhibit these neurons, they suppress food intake and increase energy expenditure at the same time," Marc Schneeberger Pané, a postdoctoral fellow in Friedman's lab, said. 

The researchers are conducting another study to further understand the hunger neurons to create novel anti-obesity drugs.

Obesity Competitors take part in the 'King of the North' gaming festival held at the Manchester Academy venue in Manchester, northern England on March 22, 2017. Bloomberg has placed the U.S. on the 35th spot in its 2019 Healthiest Country Index due to obesity and low life expectancy in the country. Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images