Washington: Scientists have suggested that a drug that treats obesity by controlling appetite, could also help combat anxiety disorders.
Dr Hsiao-Huei Chen, associate professor of medicine at the University of Ottawa said that not only did they find a new biological pathway that regulates these two conditions, but they also found that they may be amenable to treatment with the same drug.
Dr. Chen and her colleagues were originally studying the effect of a gene called LMO4 on brain development and regeneration when they noticed that mice that lacked this gene in a certain part of the brain displayed anxious behaviour and became obese. Their new research, together with a previous study, shows that an enzyme called PTP1B plays a crucial role in a molecular pathway that links LMO4, anxiety, obesity and the body's natural marijuana (endocannabinoid) system. When the researchers used a drug (trodusquemine) that specifically inhibits the activity of PTP1B, they found that both anxiety and obesity were reduced.
Current treatments for anxiety disorders have addiction issues and other side effects, but this approach lets the brain fix itself by simply re-instating the appropriate level of PTP1B, said Dr. Chen.
Trodusquemine is in clinical trials for its effects on appetite control and weight loss, and also for its potential effect on breast cancer. Previous studies have found that people with metabolic and obesity-related diseases often suffer from mood or anxiety disorders.
Knowing that a common biological link exists between obesity and anxiety, it may be possible to treat the disorders in tandem.
The study is published today in Neuron.