Landmark obesity study

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 g

Contact: Stephanie Donoho
Eleanor Roosevelt Institute

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