Anti-Obesity Vaccine Shows Promising Results in Mice

obesity vaccineA study presented at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society found that a therapeutic vaccine to treat obesity through suppression of the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin, slowed the food intake in mice and increased their energy expenditure. The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Porto in Portugal. They created a vaccine using a noninfectious virus carrying ghrelin, which was created to promote the development of antibodies that would suppress the hunger hormone.

According to an article published by ScienceDaily, ghrelin is a gut hormone that provokes weight gain by increasing appetite and food intake while decreasing energy expenditure, or calorie burning. Research shows that bariatric surgery, such as gastric bypass, can suppress ghrelin, indicating that there may be a hormonal mechanism underlying the weight loss achieved with these weight loss operations.

The main finding of the study was that both normal-weight and obese mice that were vaccinated developed increasing amounts of specific anti-ghrelin antibodies. They increased their energy expenditure and decreased their food intake.  Specifically, shortly after the first vaccination, obese mice consumed 82 percent of the amount that control mice consumed, and after the final vaccination, they consumed just 50 percent of what the unvaccinated mice consumed.  Study author Mariana Monteiro, MD, PhD concluded that “An anti-ghrelin vaccine may become an alternate treatment for obesity, to be used in combination with diet and exercise.”

Dr. Layton Alldredge, expert bariatric surgeon of South Valley Surgical in Salt Lake City,  spoke with us about the findings. He told us: “We are really still in the infancy of our understanding of the complicated neuro-hormonal interactions that control hunger and satiety and even farther away from using that understanding to treat patients. The promise, however, of such an intervention is tantalizing to all physicians who treat obesity.”

“The time may come when we look back at surgical intervention, as Bones says in Startrek — barbaric. For the present, however, we need to do what we can for the patients of today, and surgery is still often our best option,” Dr. Alldredge concluded.

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