The hormones that govern metabolism and other vital bodily functions act
like "individual musicians playing together in a philharmonic orchestra
producing the most melodic, beautiful symphonies," an endocrinologist
says. Understanding the complex interplay has already led to a new
diabetes therapy, and it may eventually help curtail obesity.Christian Weyer
MD, studied endocrinology and metabolism at the University of
Dusseldorf Medical Center in Germany and worked as a visiting
researcher at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDKD)
in Phoenix, Arizona. The NIDDKD spent decadesstudying diabetes and obesity
among Pima Indians,
a population that has the world's highest reported rates of both disorders. In"Hormones in Concert,"
an article in TheScientist.com, Dr. Weyer explains he was intrigued by
the complexity and elegance of the way hormonal signaling systems work.
"Some hormones, such as insulin, thyroid hormone, or cortisol,
and 'major players', and their deficiency or excess can result in
life-threatening metabolic derangements," he writes. "Others, such as
calcitronin, pancreatic polypeptide or amylin, can be viewed as
complementary signals that enhance or 'fine tune' a tightly regulated
metabolic process. In many cases the central nervous system
orchestrates and balances these hormonal interactions, serving in the
role of conductor."
Dr. Weyer became convinced that people who
immediately regain recently lost weightare not just lacking willpower.
Instead, they are experiencing what he terms neuroendocrine-mediated
metabolic compensation, an involuntary bodily response in which their
systems promote weight regain by conserving energy and boosting
appetite. For the last decade, Dr. Weyer has worked for Amylin Pharmaceuticals,
which produced two new drugs to treat diabetes that were approved by the FDA in 2005.
studies on overweight rats, Dr. Weyer and colleagues at Amlyn found
that the weight of the rodents could be normalized with double and
tripple combinations of hormones that did not achieve such results
alone. Their theory was that food intake and body weight are regulated
by a sophisticated interplay of hormonal signals from fat cells, (leptin)
and calls from the pancreas, (amlyn),
gut cells. The syngergistic interaction between amlyn and leptin led
to sustained and substantial weight loss in obese rats, he reports.
While results of the company's small studies on human volunteers have
been encouraging, Dr. Weyer says it may be years before the endocrine
solutions are available as therapy for human obesity.