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Brain cells that aid appetite control identified

Discovery opens door to development of new drugs to control weight gain and obesity

May 12, 2016

By Katherine Gombay

It's rare for scientists to get what they describe as "clean" results without spending a lot of time repeating the same experiment over and over again. But when researchers from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) saw the mice they were working with doubling their weight within a month or two, they knew they were on to something. 

"About twenty years ago there was a big step forward in our understanding of obesity when researchers discovered that our appetite is controlled by a key molecule called leptin. Leptin is a hormone which is produced by our fat cells, and is delivered by the blood to the brain to signal the brain that we are full and can stop eating," explains Dr. Maia Kokoeva who is affiliated both with McGill University and a member from the Experimental Therapeutics and Metabolism Program of the RI-MUHC. "But even though receptors for leptin were discovered soon after in the hypothalamus, a brain area that regulates food intake and body weight, it has remained unclear how exactly leptin is detected." Read more