Gut molecule that blocks ‘hunger hormone’ may spur new treatments for diabetes, anorexia
Scientists once had high hopes that inhibiting a hormone named ghrelin would be the key to preventing obesity. Ghrelin didn’t turn out to be a weight loss panacea. But now, the discovery of the first molecule naturally made by the body that blocks ghrelin’s effects may open up new avenues for treating other conditions, including diabetes and anorexia. The finding may also explain some of the benefits of bariatric surgery, which shrinks or reroutes the stomach to control weight.
“It’s a very impressive piece of research,” says bariatric physician Carel le Roux of University College Dublin, who wasn’t connected to the study. “I think it will have significant clinical impact.”
When researchers discovered ghrelin about 20 years ago, they dubbed it the “hunger hormone” because early results suggested it ramped up our appetite. But studies soon found that thwarting the molecule didn’t curtail food consumption or promote weight loss in mice. Still, the hormone induces a variety of other positive changes in our metabolism. For example, ghrelin may bolster muscle strength, spurring scientists to test whether drugs that mimic the hormone can counteract the muscle deterioration and weakness often suffered by cancer patients.
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The new study didn’t start as a hunt for ghrelin-blocking compounds. Instead, a team headed by researchers at NGM Biopharmaceuticals in South Sa Continue reading