Talk about the holy grail of medical research. 1200 WOAI news reports a researcher at San Antonio's Texas Biomed is trying to come up with a way to activate the natural 'hunger hormone' that exists in all of our bodies that is supposed to make us stop eating. Dr. Raul Bastarrachea says the goal is to medically eliminate the global problem of obesity, and all of the dangerous medical conditions, from heart disease to diabetes, that stem from being overweight.
Dr. Bastarrachea says we all have a hormone in our bodies which is supposed to suppress hunger. It is called Leptin, but he says evolution has suppressed the hormone because, for almost the entire span of human existance, food has been scarce, so people have had to eat as much as they could, when food was available, just to survive.
But he says now that is not the case any more, so the trigger in our bodies that suppresses Leptin has to go.
"Right now we have food avaialble in every form, cheap and abundant," he said. "So therefore it is a problem, because eating is no longer needed for survival."
So powerful Leptin is believed to be in allowing our bodies to avoid obesity that is is known by researchers as 'the fat controller.' And Dr. Bastarrachea says allowing it to again perform its natural role in our bodies is within reach of scientists.
The existance and Leptin and its role in helping the body suppress the appetite has been known since its discovery by researchers at Rockefeller University in 2000. The hormone is missing in animals, and is improperly coded, in humans who become obese. Dr. Bastarrachea says it is possible to come up with a way to manipulate a mutation in the gene that regulates the body's natural production of Leptin, and understand why people develop excess body fat.
He says that would be a major breakthrough in world health.
"And that would make you eat just what you need, and your body would not want to continue eating for pleasure," he said.
Rather than just being cosmetically desirable, now that obesity has become a global problem, Dr. Bastarrachea says finding a medical cure for it is becoming a significant goal of the medical community.
"We keep learning more and more about the role of fat in normal-weight people," Bastarrachea said. "By researching what goes wrong when genes don't code correctly for the production of leptin, we are coming closer to answers that could help millions of people with metabolic disorders."
PHOTOS: A scientific representation of Leptin and Dr. Bastarrachea COURTESY of Texas Biomed