Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Aberdeen University scientists believe new discovery ‘unlocks door’ to understanding obesity

Lead scientist Professor Lora Heisler
Lead scientist Professor Lora Heisler

Researchers at Aberdeen University believe a tiny group of cells in the brain may hold they key to tackling the UK’s obesity crisis.

The team hope to be able to use targeted drugs to control and suppress appetite and help people improve their health.

In first world countries obesity is a major health challenge, with around 60% of British adults are overweight and 25% clinically obese.

The result is a significant increase the numbers suffering from serious illnesses like heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

Now, however, the Aberdeen researchers believe new research could hold the key to suppressing appetites.

The university’s Rowett Institute found a small group of cells in what is known as the nucleus of the solitary tract and have tested them against certain medications for obesity.

Lead scientist Professor Lora Heisler said: “We set out to discover how appetite is controlled and this led us to a particular part of the brain.

“In this crucial brain area we found a small group of cells that control appetite.

“We used new sophisticated techniques that allowed us to ‘turn on’ these cells with drugs, and by doing this, were able to reduce food intake.”

Professor Heisler and her team also looked at the new obesity medication, Lorcaserin, which is prescribed in the USA and employs these cells to decrease food intake.

She said; “Since these cells are found in one of the two places in the brain that make important brain hormones called pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) peptides – which we already know are essential to regulate our appetite and body weight – we thought, ‘maybe this is how this works’ and went on to test that.

“By turning POMC peptide production off only in this brain area, we found that POMC is key to these particular obesity drugs working effectively over the first few hours.

“What these drugs do is spur POMC neurons into action, which mounts a relay of signals through the brain that let us know we have had enough to eat.

“Our discovery opens the door to new medications that could be developed to control appetite and improve health.”

The research was primarily funded by a £452,000 grant from the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

Other funding came from the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council.

Jamie Weir, chairman of patient’s group PACT, said: “This discovery is very exciting and hopefully  will lead to a way of tackling the obesity issue that is rapidly becoming a major health problem.

“Obesity and its complications  uses an ever increasing percentage of our limited health budget and any new research  is to be welcomed.”

Already a subscriber? Sign in