Landmark obesity study

August 30, 1999



Trials in mice are promising; human testing on horizon


Denver--August 30, 1999 - Scientists at Denver's Eleanor Roosevelt Institute have discovered a novel method for treating obesity in mice, a finding that could lead to new pharmaceutical treatments for overweight people worldwide. Published in the September issue of the international journal, Nature Medicine, the finding is a dramatic departure from most current obesity research, which concentrates on controlling appetite. This new approach centers on the way in which the body stores and burns fat.

The finding is tied to a gene known as POMC, which is found in both mice and humans. POMC provides signals that are important both during development and also later in life. The team was originally studying the impact of POMC on the development of the brain when they discovered it also played a major role in weight regulation.

"Our research demonstrates that mice lacking POMC-derived signals are obese," said Miles B. Brennan, a scientist at the Institute. "When we treated obese mice with a hormone made by the POMC gene, called MSH, they returned to almost normal weight in a matter of weeks. Further the effect isn't simply a change in appetite, but also in fat storage."

"We continue to do follow-up research in mice and the results are promising so far," said Brennan. "We hope to pair up with a strategic partner that will help move this study in to human clinical trials. If this process works in humans, we hope to get it to the public in the most efficient and timely way possible."

This discovery has implications for many diseases, explained Eleanor Roosevelt Institute President David Patterson. "For example, many people with Down syndrome have difficulty controlling their weight. In addition, medications commonly used to treat epilepsy and various forms of depression often lead to unwanted weight gain. We hope that this finding will be useful for weight control in these conditions as well."

"It may also turn out that this new understanding of weight control will lead to ways to avoid undesirable weight loss, for example weight loss associated with certain cancers," Patterson said.

Obesity research has generally focused on ways to suppress the appetite or increase metabolism, said Patterson. "This study is novel because it examines the way in which the body regulates the storage of fat," he said.

Brennan has been working in collaboration with Ute Hochgeschwender of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation and Linda Yaswen and Nicole Diehl, formerly of the National Institute of Mental Health.
-end-
Denver's Eleanor Roosevelt Institute was founded in 1961 on a vision of independent medical research. The Institute is staffed by leading scientists from all over the world who study Down syndrome, Lou Gehrig's disease, cancer and other diseases. Institute scientists believe, as Mrs. Roosevelt did, that basic medical research is the most cost-effective, long-term solution to human affliction.

The Institute's web address is eri.uchsc.edu .

Eleanor Roosevelt Institute

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