Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Nicotine: A cure for obesity?

Many cigarette smokers have shed extra pounds through their otherwise-unhealthy nicotine habit. But now, scientists have identified and isolated the pathways in the brain that are affected by nicotine's appetite suppressants. The research, published in the journal Science, might lead to the development of a healthy, nicotine-based treatment to control obesity. Here, a short guide to the findings:

How did the researchers make their discovery?

It was accidental, actually. Researchers from Yale and Baylor were looking for new drugs to treat depression, when they noticed that mice given nicotine were eating less. The scientists gave the mice a chemical compound that blocked nicotine receptors, and the rodents' appetites returned. Next, the researchers genetically modified some mice to knock out those nicotine receptors. When given nicotine, the mice without nicotine receptors did not lose weight, but mice with the receptors did. The researchers also found that these receptors are independent from those known to trigger tobacco cravings in smokers...

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