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Varicose Vein Treatment Suppresses Hunger Hormone In Pigs

September 16, 2008

A varicose vein treatment successfully suppressed levels of ghrelin, also known as the hunger hormone, in pigs researchers reported on Tuesday.

In the minimally invasive procedure, researchers injected the chemical into blood vessels to cut off production of ghrelin.

The ten pigs who underwent the procedure ate less, and tests showed their bodies were producing as much as 60 percent less ghrelin.

“With gastric artery chemical embolization, called GACE, there’s no major surgery,” says Aravind Arepally, M.D., clinical director of the Center for Bioengineering Innovation and Design and associate professor of radiology and surgery at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine.

“In our study in pigs, this procedure produced an effect similar to bariatric surgery by suppressing ghrelin levels and subsequently lowering appetite.”

Bariatric surgery involves cutting off part of the stomach and sometimes small intestine so that people eat less and so their bodies have less time to digest food. About 205,000 people in the United States had bariatric surgery last year.

Arepally said he used a chemical called sodium morrhuate to kill tissue in specific blood vessels leading to the fundus, at the top of the stomach.

“The chemical doesn’t really destroy the blood vessels but it destroys the very specific area of tissue that produces the hormones,” Arepally said.

Arepally said he was talking to pharmaceutical companies to design a better way to try this approach in people.

“Ghrelin is one of these primordial hormones,” he said.

“It is a survival hormone. It is very powerful. It is pretty much universal in all animals.”

“Appetite is complicated because it involves both the mind and body,” Arepally says. “Ghrelin fluctuates throughout the day, responding to all kinds of emotional and physiological scenarios. But even if the brain says “produce more ghrelin,” GACE physically prevents the stomach from making the hunger hormone.”

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