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Eating shuts down nerve cells that counter obesity

Mouse study offers hints of orexin’s role in weight gain and narcolepsy

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12:00pm, August 18, 2016
orexin in nerve cells

DIET AID  Nerve cells that produce a molecule called orexin (also known as hypocretin, pink) may counter obesity, a study of mice suggests. 

Fractions of a second after food hits the mouth, a specialized group of energizing nerve cells in mice shuts down. After the eating stops, the nerve cells spring back into action, scientists report August 18 in Current Biology.  This quick response to eating offers researchers new clues about how the brain drives appetite and may also provide insight into narcolepsy.

These nerve cells have intrigued scientists for years. They produce a molecule called orexin (also known as hypocretin), thought to have a role in appetite. But their bigger claim to fame came when scientists found that these cells were largely missing from the brains of people with narcolepsy.

People with narcolepsy are more likely to be overweight than other people, and this new study may help explain why, says neuroscientist Jerome Siegel of UCLA. These cells may have more subtle roles in regulating food intake in people without

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