WEDNESDAY, July 28, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- New information about leptin, which plays an important role in burning fat, may offer scientists a potential target for developing new drugs to fight obesity.
A research team from Brown Medical School and Harvard Medical School mapped a small but critical section of leptin's path through the body. Charting this path is vital to understanding how and why leptin works. This map is still incomplete.
The Harvard and Brown researchers found that leptin triggers production of a certain peptide -- alpha-MSH -- in the hypothalamus, the area of the brain that controls metabolism and hunger. This peptide is one of the body's most powerful metabolism boosters. It sends a quick, strong message to the brain to burn calories.
This message provokes a series of chemical responses that eventually cause the body's cells to increase energy production.
This study, published in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could help in the development of obesity treatments.
"If somehow, through a drug, you can increase activity of alpha-MSH, you'd force the body to burn more calories and lose weight," researcher Eduardo Nillni, an associate professor in the department of medicine and department of molecular biology at Brown Medical School, said in a prepared statement.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about calories.