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Major new appetite regulator successfully altered in mice

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An Imperial study has found a new link between certain brain receptors and obesity in mice, giving a possible new drug target for appetite regulation.

Researchers from Imperial College London and colleagues have found a potential way to target the receptors that specifically control appetite in mice, potentially without causing other side effects.

Thyroid hormone receptors (TRs) are spread widely throughout the body and interact with circulating thyroid hormones to regulate functions such as appetite, the nervous system, body temperature, and cholesterol levels. Thus, any drug targeting thyroid hormones and their receptors needs to be specific to avoid affecting other body systems.

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Humans with lowered TR activity in their brains have previously been found to be more obese on average than others. If this research continues into testing drugs on human subjects, there would be no simple test to measure levels of TR activity and adjust medication accordingly. Rather, treatment would be based on a system of trial and error with regard to whether the drug worked for specific individuals.

Two mice in temporary housing show similar weight differences to those seen in the study animals.

Two mice in temporary housing show similar weight
differences to those seen in the study animals.

However, the authors warned that this research is at an early stage and that the results should be taken with caution. Dr Gardiner added: “Due to the justifiably long and complex process of drug discovery, any potential treatment that could result from this will be far off in the future. However, the strength of our results, and the doubling in body size of these mice, shows there’s that the role of thyroid hormones and their receptors are definitely worth exploring further in the fight against obesity.”

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Spider proteins offer new insight into human heart conditions

Proteins found in the muscles of tarantulas are helping scientists to understand how genetic changes can lead to serious heart conditions.

Although spiders may appear to have little in common with humans, some of the proteins that make up their muscles are similar to those in our own bodies, including muscle found in the heart.