In the wake of leptin research, a host of antiobesity drugs are now in clinical trials. One drug, a form of human variant ciliary neurotrophic factor, Axokine, works by activating a set of brain cells that produce appetite-dampening peptides. Because it works with brain chemistry, endocrinologists are skeptical about long-term effects. Drug research is also revolving around one hormone, ghrelin, which peaks before meals and triggers appetite, as well as a peptide that rises during meals and signals satiety. Stifling one and boosting the other could develop two more drugs to limit calorie intake. Ghrelin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract; researchers describe it as "your stom ach's way of telling your brain you're hungry." Drugs can be made to block ghrelin, which would kill hunger. Again, through calorie intake reduction, such a drug could cause weight loss.
Perhaps one of the most exciting finds in obesity research centers is the discovery of a brand-new hormone, known as peptide YY (PYY). While looking at the effects of bariatric surgery on appetite and the hormones secreted that make us feel full or satisfied, a British research team found that levels of the PYY hormone surged in people who had undergone this surgery. Some investigators suspect that it is PYY that is responsible for a person's loss of the desire to eat excessively. Future research with PYY may lead to a truly effective obesity drug. A nasal spray version of PYY is currently in clinical trials.
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