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Born to Be Obese?
Date:2/5/2008

New research suggests brains of heavy individuals may be wired differently

TUESDAY, Feb. 5 (HealthDay News) -- The brain circuitry that controls appetite might be wired differently in some people, and that could predispose them to obesity, California researchers suggest.

The study was conducted in rats, not humans, and yet it could ultimately lead to novel obesity treatments, said Philip Smith, director of the Office of Obesity Research at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

"It is not just about drugs that modify short-term appetite," he said, "there may be drugs that stimulate development of the appropriate neural pathways. So, it is an exciting, but very early, time in this field."

The study was published in the February issue of Cell Metabolism.

Sebastien Bouret, an assistant professor of neuroscience at the University of Southern California, and his colleagues examined neural circuits emanating from the appetite, hunger and body-weight control center of the brain -- the so-called arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus (ARH) -- in a series of rats bred to be either prone to, or resistant to, obesity.

The team found fewer neural connections projecting from the ARH in obesity-prone animals than in their leaner counterparts. Surprisingly, Bouret said, this deficiency developed very early in life, before the animals became obese, and appeared to extend into adulthood.

"Somehow, these animals are programmed to become obese," Bouret said. "The obesity is hard-wired into the brain."

When the researchers then looked at why the brains of obese rats differed from their normal-weight counterparts, they found that the neurons from obesity-prone animals were less responsive to leptin, a hormone that controls the development of these circuits, and which also signals the body's energy status and controls metabolic rate.

"This paper presum
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