Scientists at Imperial College, London, are developing an appetite suppressant drug based on a naturally occurring hormone that could be used to tackle obesity and eventually be dispensed as a gum that is chewed after a meal.
The project, which is led by Professor Steve Bloom of the Division of Investigative Science at Imperial College, who has been working on it for some years, has been awarded 2.3 million pounds by the Wellcome Trust which is pouring 91 million pounds (178 million dollars) into research projects to tackle obesity, cancer and other diseases under its Seeding Drug Discovery Initiative.Professor Bloom has been having difficulty getting commercial sponsorship for the project because the compound he is developing is too large to make into a pill. He leads a team of 30 scientists who are looking at the role played by regulatory peptides and hypothalamic growth hormones and neurotransmitters in controlling energy balance in mammals. They use a range of techniques including adult gene manipulation and hypothalamic implants to explore appetite and energy regulation mechanisms.They have recently discovered the important role played by peripheral peptide hormonal signals in the gut in controlling appetite.Prof Bloom has received the funding for developing the naturally occurring gut hormone pancreatic polypeptide (PP). Prof Bloom was keen to use something that the body itself produces to regulate appetite as opposed to a potentially toxic drug. He is of the view this method would not have the side effects of current obesity drugs."Developing a treatment based on natural appetite suppression, mimicking our body's response to being full, has the potential to be safe and effective," says Professor Bloom. "We believe that pancreatic polypeptide may be the answer."He is hoping that eventually the compound could be used in a pen-based applicator, similar to the one for insulin, and that it could be available within 5 to 8 years, and eventually a chewing gum based or nasal spray version could also be available.Over 1,000 people die prematurely from obesity in the UK each week, and according to their website, there are no effective treatments, a fact that spurs Prof Bloom and his team on to do this work.(Source: Imperial College : Stanford University : January 2007.)