THAT burning sensation you get after gulping down a fiery chilli has Adelaide scientists hot on the trail of drugs that could counter obesity.
The body’s so-called “hot chilli receptors”, known in laboratories as TRPV1, also block appetite and create a feeling of fullness, according to University of Adelaide researchers who believe this natural occurrence could be the foundation of new drugs.
Head researcher Associate Professor Amanda Page, of the university’s School of Medicine, said the study revealed a deletion of the hot chilli receptor in mice resulted in a delayed feeling of fullness and the consumption of more food.
“The stomach stretches when it is full, which activates nerves in the stomach to tell the body that it has had enough food,” she said.
“We found that this activation is regulated through hot chill pepper or TRPV1 receptors.”
The researchers also found that the natural behaviour of the receptors may be disrupted by high-fat diets, so could contribute to obese people eating too much.
In a study of obese mice, the researchers found a high-fat diet impaired the hot chilli receptors in the body which signal fullness.
“If we knock out the receptor as well, there is no change ... which suggests that the channel is disrupted in high-fat diet conditions,” Prof Page said.
The researchers then tested lean mice, who had the hot chilli receptor removed through genetic modification.
Those mice were fed a normal diet and were found to eat more than usual.
“This suggests that the receptor is involved in the regulation of food intake,” Prof Page said.
Prof Page said the research highlighted the hot chilli receptors were involved in sending signals to the brain and the feeling of fullness.
“This is disrupted in high-fat diet conditions (and) it may be why it’s so difficult to lose weight and maintain that weight loss,” she said.
Prof Page said the study could lead to new drugs for the treatment of obesity.
“If we target these receptors it could lead to a possible treatment,” she said.
Co-researcher Dr Stephen Kentish, of the university’s School of Medicine, agreed the findings could lead to the development of new therapies.
“The next stage of research will involve investigation of the mechanisms behind TRPV1 receptor activation with the aim of developing a more palatable therapy,” he said.
“We will also do further work to determine why a high-fat diet desensitises TRPV1 receptors and
investigate if we can reverse the damage.”
The study was published today in the journal PLOS ONE.
Originally published as Red-hot hopes for fat buster
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