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Breakthrough Vaccine For Obesity - Turning Point in Dieting Seen - Ghrelin Vaccination Allows Rats to Eat Same But Not Gain Weight

August 3rd 2006

Breakthrough Vaccine For Obesity - Turning Point in Dieting Seen - Ghrelin Vaccination Allows Rats to Eat Same But Not Gain Weight


An amazing new vaccine, developed by The Scripps Research Institute, is being called a “breakthrough” in the global battle against obesity.  The Institute says this may mark a “turning point” in the treatment of obesity by confirming the effectiveness of immunopharmacotherapy. 

Immunopharmacotherapy is a method of therapy that “engages” the immune system’s antibodies to bind to selected targets.  This approach may also be an effective method of dealing with drug addiction, especially addiction to cocaine and nicotine.

So far the research has involved mature male rats.  The rats were immunized with specific types of the active vaccine and ate normally.  The immunized rats gained less weight, leading the researcher to believe that the vaccine directly affects the body’s metabolism and energy use.


The new vaccine targets and works against the hormone ghrelin (pronounced "grell-in").  Ghrelin is a naturally occurring hormone that helps regulate energy balance in the body.  The vaccine may put an end to the problem of “yo-yo” dieting, and in animal models at least, has been shown to put an end to that risky and often futile struggle.

Ghrelin was identified in 1999 as a natural gastric endocrine hormone produced primarily in the stomach.  Ghrelin is known to promote weight gain and fat storage through its metabolic actions, decreasing the breakdown of stored fat for energy as well as curbing energy expenditure itself.  During periods of weight loss, such as dieting, the body produces high levels of ghrelin to slow down fat metabolism, encourage eating, and promote fat retention.  These changes make it difficult to lose weight and keep it off.


"The study shows our vaccine slows weight gain and decreases stored fat in rats," said a senior author Kim Janda, Ph.D. "While food intake was unchanged in all testing groups, those who were given the most effective vaccines gained the least amount of weight. To have an impact on appetite and weight gain, ghrelin first has to move from the bloodstream into the brain-where, over long periods, it stimulates the retention of a level of stored energy as fat. Our study is the first published evidence proving that preventing ghrelin from reaching the central nervous system can produce a desired reduction in weight gain." Kim Jr. Professor of Chemistry at Scripps Research, a member of The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology, and director of the Worm Institute of Research and Medicine.


Ghrelin, a, plays a physiological role in energy homeostasis, although the full extent of that role remains unknown. "We’re not claiming that our study answers the question of obesity treatment once and for all," Janda said. "What we are saying, and what our study confirms, is that this looks like a serious workable solution to the problem. And while much more research is needed to understand the full therapeutic potential of immunopharmacotherapy in combating obesity, these initial results are extremely positive. Right now it appears that active vaccination against ghrelin is one avenue that can slow weight gain and fat build-up in the body."

It may not matter how much you eat, when it comes to gaining weight.  Eric Zorrilla, Ph.D., a Scripps Research assistant professor, member of the Harold L. Dorris Neurological Research Institute, and a lead author of the study, said, "The rats who received the most effective vaccines didn’t eat differently than the others, including the control models. That makes our findings exciting therapeutically-the vaccine slows the rate of weight gain, while still allowing for normal eating habits. A vaccine against ghrelin also is particularly compelling in terms of the well-documented problems of human dieting. When you diet, the body responds as if it was starving and produces ghrelin to slow down fat metabolism and stimulate eating, changes meant to help retain and regain body fat. As a result, many people end up regaining the weight they lost and more once they go off their diets. This vaccine may have the real potential to prevent or seriously reduce yo-yo dieting, the repetitive cycle of weight loss and gain, because it interferes with ghrelin’s ability to promote weight gain and fat accumulation."

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Marsh Quinn

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Important:  The material on Best Syndication is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical conditions. You should promptly seek professional medical care if you have any concern about your health, and you should always consult your physician before starting a fitness program.

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