Some smokers won’t quit because they think they’ll gain weight if they do -- and statistically speaking, they’re probably right. But now that scientists have found nicotine receptors in the brains of mice that appear to influence appetite, there’s hope that researchers could eventually engineer a weight-loss drug that mimics nicotine. It just won't happen anytime soon.
In the new study, scientists from Yale University and the Baylor College of Medicine investigated how nicotine worked in the brains of mice to suppress their appetite. The researchers found that when nicotine binds to a particular receptor in the brain, certain neurons in the hypothalamus, called pro-opiomelanocortin, or POMC, cells, are activated. Mice with this pathway lost weight; those without an "intact" pathway did not. The results were published online Thursday in the journal Science.
Hence, the hope for a medical application:
"These results indicate that medications that specifically target this pathway could alleviate nicotine withdrawal as well as reduce the risk of overeating during smoking cessation," National Institute of Drug Abuse director Dr. Nora D. Volkow said in a news release. "Although more research is warranted, such a highly selective compound might be more effective than drugs that act on more than one type of nicotinic receptor."