Cells Signaling for Hunger Found

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In collaboration of scientists from Barnard College, Columbia and Rockefeller Universities, cells that release the hormone ghrelin were found. The cells are located in the stomach and signal the brain when the next meal is expected. These cells, amazingly, release the hormone in a cyclic manner. The intervals between one secretion and another is computed according to the intervals between the meals in the last day or so. This finding can help design drugs that will decrease appetite by blocking this signaling and help fight overweight and obesity.

Ghrelin Induces Food Anticipation

It was previously established that the hormone ghrelin increases food anticipation level in both mice and human. It was demonstrated that mice lacking ghrelin seek for food later than normal mice; in addition, people that were injected with ghrelin before dinner took more food from the buffet than the rest of the people. Ghrelin is known to participate in the decision making in the brain when to eat and when to start looking for food. In this research the cells that produce this hormone were found.

The pariental cells are found in the stomach epithelium and until now were known to secrete gastric acid and intrinsic factor, important factors for digestion and absorption of the food. In this research they were found to also secrete ghrelin to the blood. The hormone then reaches the brain and encourages it to start looking for or anticipating food. The secretion was found to be circadian and controlled by several proteins.

Circadian Appetite-Controlling Clock

The hormone is secreted in predefined intervals, set by the meals of the last day. In the research mentioned, the circadian clock mechanism was found and it was shown that when each of the proteins involved in missing, the rhythm is less pronounced. Mice without a functional clock anticipated food later than normal ones, however, when they did start looking for food they did it more abruptly. The researchers also showed that the rhythm of the clock is changing according to the timing of last meals.

Applications for Weight Watching and Obesity Fighting

The main outcome of this research is that food should be eaten in ordered meals and not throughout the day to allow a proper signaling rhythm of the clock, a good advise for keeping your weight. Furthermore, these new findings can help develop drugs that will decrease hunger and set a longer interval between meals and a smaller consumption in each meal. Such drugs will help fight overweight and obesity.

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