• Princeton researchers found that brain cells known to regulate hunger also control energy expenditure. As our body weight depends both on the calories we consume and the energy we burn, their findings could lead to a new type of weight-loss medication that acts on both sides of the energy equation. This image from a heat-sensitive camera shows the temperature of brown fat, a special form of fat tissue that is burned to produce heat directly in both mice and humans. The researchers turned temperature-sensitive neurons on and off, and they discovered that activating the neurons cooled the animals’ brown fat and lowered their core body temperature, while suppressing the neurons amped up heat production — and made the animals less hungry.
    Image courtesy of the researchers

  • New research raises possibility of better anti-obesity drugs

    Effective weight-loss strategies call for eating less food, burning more calories — or ideally, both. But for the more than 90 million Americans who suffer from obesity, a disease that contributes to conditions ranging from heart disease to cancer, behavioral change is hard to accomplish or not effective enough, which is why scientists have long sought drugs that would help people shed pounds. Yet effective, long-lasting treatments have thus far eluded them.
     
    In a report published June 27 in the journal Cell, a Princeton-led team of researchers proposes a new avenue in the search for anti-obesity drugs. The team found that a group of brain cells previously shown to regulate hunger also controls energy expenditure. And since our body weight depends both on the calories we consume and the energy we burn, their findings could lead to a new type of weight-loss medication that acts on both sides of the energy equation, said Alexander Nectow, a visiting associate research scholar in the Princeton Neuroscience Institute and senior author on the new paper.
     
    “The discovery that these neurons can be modulated to decrease hunger and increase energy expenditure points to their potential of being novel targets for drug development against obesity,” said Tania Das Banerjee, a research specialist in PNI who was one of the co-first-authors on the paper.
     
    “Obesity is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes,” Nectow said. “Given that over two-thirds of Americans are currently overweight or obese, this is a critical clinical issue.”
     
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