Scientists have stumbled on a ‘gluttony gene’ that converts you into an eating machine even if you are full. Mice tests have demonstrated that a mutation on a single gene broke down body-brain communication and triggered non-stop eating and rapid weight gain. But the good news is that the scientists hope identifying the Bdnf gene could help with slimming treatments as obesity is becoming a global epidemic, the journal Nature Medicine reports. Baoki Xu, who led the study at Georgetown University Medical Centre, US on variations in the Bdnf gene in mice, said: “This discovery may open up novel strategies to help the brain control body weight.”
His team found the Bdnf gene has ‘short’ and ‘long’ versions which form at an early stage in the womb. Those with the ‘long’ form sent the chemical signals to say ‘I’m full’ through a ‘superhighway’ of neurons in the brain to the hypothalamus, according to the Daily Mail. In those with the short form, signals reached some brain cells but could not be picked up by the dendrites – the branch-like ‘fingers’ coming out of the cells which pass messages on to the right place. Xu said: “If there is a problem with the Bdnf gene, neurons can’t talk to each other, and the leptin and insulin signals are ineffective and the appetite is not modified.” The mice ate twice as much as those without the mutation.
Humans also have this gene and it has been linked to obesity, but the researchers say it was not clear until now exactly how it worked. After a meal, the activity of this gene transmits chemical signals down a chain of brain cells until they reach the hypothalamus, which receives the message that you are full and suppresses the appetite. Scientists will now be looking at whether the faulty transmission line can be modified, to help prevent and treat obesity.