Scientists find 'on/off' switch for appetite in the brain

Study promises new hope for combating obesity

An On/Off Switch for Appetite Might've Been Found

Good news for weight watchers: scientists say they have found a way to "switch off" the appetite... at least in mice.

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Researchers at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, have found a new type of nerve cell that tells mice when to stop eating. They hope is that the discovery could lead to new tools for fighting obesity in humans.

During the study, scientists knocked out an enzyme in one part of the brains of mice and found that the animals began eating lots more food – so much so, that they tripled their body fat in three weeks.

One of the researchers said: "These mice don't understand that they've had enough food, so they keep eating."

Scientists stumbled across the discovery while studying the role that the enzyme - called OGT - plays in memory. The enzyme is vital to help certain brain cells maintain strong connections, and those brain cells are responsible for signalling when we've had enough to eat.

Although tests have only been carried out on animals, the same cells are known to exist in humans.

The researcher said, "If our findings bear out in other animals, including people, they may advance the search for drugs or other means of controlling appetites."

So far, the results look promising. The researchers carried out another study where they stimulated that same area of the brain and found that it caused the mice to cut their food intake by a quarter.

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