Zeroing In on Receptors That Cause Obesity

Among the complex web of factors that are causing obesity to rise, you will find the rise of drugs that cause weight gain. New antipsychotic drugs – like olanzapine or Zyprexa – are classic examples. They offer important benefits for people living with schizophrenia or bipolar disease. But they have a downside. They can cause obesity and metabolic disease. Now, new research pinpoints the receptors they block to cause those problems.

Serotonin 2c Receptors

Lorcaserin is a new obesity drug that works by activating a very specific receptor in the brain – serotonin 2c receptors. It’s sold under the brand name Belviq.

Research published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation points to those same receptors as the source of weight gain that comes from olanzapine. Scientists from UT Southwestern Medical Center showed that mice have the same weight gain and metabolic problems that humans do when they take olanzapine.

But when mice without serotonin 2c receptors received olanzapine, they had no weight gain. Likewise, when mice got lorcaserin along with olanzapine, they didn’t gain weight.

Important Insight

This research provides important insight for two reasons. At a basic level it adds to our understanding of the neuroscience of obesity. It gives us better knowledge of receptors in the brain that play a role in obesity.

But the more important insight right now might be the clue it provides for people who really need olanzapine. Right now, they benefit from the drug and others like it because it really helps with a serious disease, schizophrenia. At the same time, they suffer greatly when those drugs cause obesity and diabetes.

With this research we have an excellent clue for defeating this problem.

Click here for the study in JCI and here for more perspective from MedicalXpress.

Neurons, photograph © ZEISS Microscopy / flickr

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August 22, 2017