Researchers try to make anti-fat hormone work better
February 12, 1998
Web posted at: 9:21 p.m. EST (0221 GMT)
PHILADELPHIA (CNN) -- More than three years ago, scientists announced that a newly discovered hormone called leptin might be the magic bullet in the fight against obesity, just as insulin is in the fight against diabetes.
Researchers found that they could make a mouse fat, or make it thin, but manipulating levels of the hormone.
However, in humans, the process has turned out to be more complicated. While doses of leptin do decrease the appetites of some people, researchers have found that it seems to work in only about 20 percent of the population.
For the rest, "you give them leptin and nothing happens," says Dr. Michael Schwartz of the University of Washington. "It's possible the reason they became obese in the first place is because they don't respond to leptin very well. So what are you going to do for them?"
This week, scientists who have gathered in Philadelphia for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science are discussing new theories about leptin and how it could be made more effective.
Schwartz has come up with one new approach. For people who don't lose weight on leptin, he suggests putting them on drastic diets to lose weight. Then, once they are thin, they will get leptin to prevent them from regaining the weight.
Experts attending this week's meeting in Philadelphia are also discussing new experimental drugs that could also be weapons in the fight against obesity.
Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen contributed to this report