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SCIENCE FILE | Science in Brief

Eating-Control Protein Found; Could Lead to Obesity Drug

July 11, 1996|From Times Staff and wire reports

Scientists say they have identified a key chemical player in the brain's control of eating, a finding that could lead to an obesity drug.

The long-sought protein lets a natural substance called neuropeptide Y, or NPY, tell the brain that it's time to eat. Scientists have known that NPY must bind to a particular protein structure on brain cells to deliver its time-to-eat message, and they have been trying to find this so-called feeding receptor for at least five years.

Now, scientists from Synaptic Pharmaceutical Corp. of Paramus, N.J., and Ciba-Geigy Ltd. in Basel, Switzerland, say they have found substances that latch onto the receptor and block NPY's access to it in rats, reducing appetite.

It will be at least two years before researchers can begin human studies of the most promising receptor blockers, with an eye toward developing an obesity drug.

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