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5 April 2013, 13:29
Scientists in Norwich have told Heart they've made a breakthrough that could lead to a drug to help people lose weight.
They've found out something new about the part of the brain that controls it appetite and can now look at creating a drug that could either increase or suppress it.
Lead researcher Dr Mohammad K. Hajihosseini, from UEA’s school of Biological Sciences said: “Unlike dieting, translation of this discovery could eventually offer a permanent solution for tackling obesity.
“Loss or malfunctioning of neurons in the hypothalamus is the prime cause of eating disorders such as obesity.
“Until recently we thought that all of these nerve cells were generated during the embryonic period and so the circuitry that controls appetite was fixed.
“But this study has shown that the neural circuitry that controls appetite is not fixed in number and could possibly be manipulated numerically to tackle eating disorders.
“The next step is to define the group of genes and cellular processes that regulate the behaviour and activity of tanycytes. This information will further our understanding of brain stem cells and could be exploited to develop drugs that can modulate the number or functioning of appetite-regulating neurons.
“Our long-term goal of course is to translate this work to humans, which could take up to five or 10 years. It could lead to a permanent intervention in infancy for those predisposed to obesity, or later in life as the disease becomes apparent.”
And Dr Mohammad Hajihosseini spoke to Heart's Neil Perry: