Overeating? Your brain cells may signal 'stop eating'

New York: Are you obese and still unable to control munching those gastronomical delights? Do not worry, scientists have identified brain cells that can send signals to stop over-eating, paving the way for potential new anti-obesity treatments. The study, conducted on mice, showed that when the cells fired and sent signals to other parts of the brain, the mice decreased the amount they ate in a day by about 25 percent. "When the type of brain cells we discovered fire and send off signals, our laboratory mice stop eating soon after," said Richard Huganir, director at the Johns Hopkins University in the US. But switching off the satiety cells in the brain caused the mice to eat more, and double their weight in three weeks.  The findings, published by the journal Science, adds significant detail to the way brains tell animals when to stop eating and, if confirmed in humans, could lead to new tools for fighting obesity. The team found the cells in a small brain region called the para-ventricular nucleus, which was already known to send and receive signals related to appetite and food intake. The signals seem to tell the mice that they have had enough, Huganir noted. A particular enzyme called OGT -- a biological catalyst involved in many bodily functions, including insulin use and sugar -- was found to play a key role in the process by stimulating synaptic connections -- an electrical or chemical signal passed from a neuron to the other -- between the cells. When the gene for OGT was silenced, the mice ate more. Although they consumed the same number of meals as normal mice, they ate bigger portions. Also, the absence of OGT interfered with the animals' ability to sense when they were full, suggesting that, OGT helps maintain synapses. "These mice don't understand that they've had enough food, so they keep eating," said Olof Lagerlof, graduate student from Johns Hopkins University. "We believe we have found a new receiver of information that directly affects brain activity and feeding behaviour, and if our findings bear out in other animals, including people, they may advance the search for drugs or other means of controlling appetites," Lagerlof suggested.