Mouse Brains Could Help Us Better Understand Human Appetites

A recent study expands we know about hunger and eating

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How do our appetites work? A study of mice offers some clues.
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How governed are we by our (literal) appetites> With the use of drugs like Ozempic becoming more widespread, it’s a subject that a lot of people are thinking about — whether they’re seeking to curb their own eating or exploring the science behind hunger. But the science behind drugs like Ozempic, Mounjaro and Wegovy isn’t the only way doctors and scientists are working on better understanding appetites — and another breakthrough may have come when looking into an entire species altogether.

Writing at Nature, Carissa Wong described the contents of a new scientific paper that could shed some light on all things hunger-related. University of California-San Francisco scientist Zachary Knight used genetically engineered mice to explore the connection between the vagal nerves, which are located in the gut, and the brain.

Prolactin-releasing hormone neurons, located in the brainstems of mice, were activated when mice had liquid food injected into their gastrointestinal tracts, which was not the case when saline was injected into the same place. Knight and his colleagues found that the same neurons also activated when mice were given liquid food to consume orally.

“The signals from the mouth are controlling how fast you eat, and the signals from the gut are controlling how much you eat,” Knight told Nature.

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These findings are compelling on their own, but they could have wider applications in terms of controlling appetites in multiple ways. -Could the work done by Knight and his fellow scientists lead to a breakthrough that helps us better understand how we eat? It’s another step towards better understanding the way the parts of our bodies interact when it comes to food — and we can thank mice for it.

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