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Weight-Loss Enzyme Identified

Researchers may have found a way to curb hunger, rev up energy

TUESDAY, July 21 (HealthDay News) -- Reducing levels of a brain enzyme may curb appetite and boost energy, thereby helping people to control their weight, says a new study.

Prolylcarboxypeptidase (PRCP) regulates the alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone (alpha-MSH), a body chemical that reduces hunger while revving up the body's energy levels. If PRCP enzyme is blocked, alpha-MSH levels stay high and keep appetite in check.

When researchers at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., blocked PRCP in mice, the rodents lost weight, maintained their energy levels and reduced their risk of developing type 2 diabetes, the team reported in the August issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Even after the mice ate a high-fat diet designed to simulate eating fast-food every day, the PRCP-blocked mice gained less weight than normal mice on a regular diet.

"Our research provides the first evidence that breaking down molecules in the brain that regulate metabolism is an important component of weight control," senior author Sabrina Diano, associate professor in Yale's departments of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences, and neurobiology, said in a news release from the university.

"Our findings provide a possible new target for the development of drugs to control metabolic disorders such as obesity and type 2 diabetes," she added.

The researchers next plan to study how the body regulates PRCP, she said.

More information

The American Diabetes Association has more about type 2 diabetes.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: Yale University, news release, July 20, 2009

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