Astrocytes: the key to losing weight while eating more

 Did you know that 42% of Americans are obese? Moreover, did you know that 53% of European adults are overweight? The situation is so dire, that the World Health Organisation has coined the term “globesity”, referring to the “escalating global epidemic of overweight and obesity”.

Obesity: the 21st century pandemic

Obesity is a complex disease that can’t be boiled down to just eating too much and not moving enough. It also involves genetics, the environment one lives in, stress, etc. Thus, it is no wonder that several organisations, including the American Medical Association, now consider it a chronic disease. Obesity also increases the risk of several other afflicitions, including type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, heart disease and some cancers. But how can we even begin to control the ongoing obesity epidemic?

The science behind dietless weightloss

Recently, researchers discovered a new drug that burns fat while the subject is maintaining a high calorie intake. They named it KDS2010 and the way it works truly is fascinating. Neurons in the lateral hypothalamus regulate fat metabolism. Researchers now discovered that the hypothalamus contains a cluster of neurons that have receptors for an inhibitory neurotransmitter, called GABA (Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid). The researchers observed that in obese mice the neurons that have GABA receptors have a slower pacemaker firing, so the neurotransmitter inhibits them. In turn, less energy is consumed in the brown fat tissue and therefore less heat is produced. So, the mouse lost less weight.

MAO, or Monoamine Oxidase B, holds a key role in the production of GABA (and many other neurotransmitters). Reactive astrocytes can produce this enzyme. A surprising discovery was that astrocytes actually regulate the activity of the GABA receptors and so, in the obese mice, the MAO enzyme is overproduced, thus the GABA quantity increases and the receptors are inhibited. Therefore, the obese mice lose less fat and less weight. KDS2010 is a MAO-B gene inhibitor, so basically it reverses the process mentioned before: there is less MAO, so less GABA, the GABA receptor neurons are active.

 KDS2010 is now undergoing clinical trials. Researchers also tested the drug on an obese mouse model and it yielded astonishing results: KDS2010 supressed weight gain without affecting the appetite and without changing the calorie intake. If you found this article interesting, stay tuned and stay curious with us! You can read the article here. See you next time.

About the author…

Hello! My name is Ilinca and I am a third year medical student that dabbles in a little bit of everything. I have an undying thirst for knowledge and a great talent for procrastination. Oh and I love hairless cats with all my heart!

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