The Italian Almanac

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Italian Science - September 21

Italian researchers have found a molecule that makes the body burn more fat, paving the way for new obesity drugs. Injected into mice, the molecule upped the animals' metabolism and stopped them becoming fat despite being fed a high-fat diet.

The molecule, a small protein called a peptide, was isolated in a rat's brain by a National Research Council (CNR) team led by Anna Moles and Alessandro Bartolomucci. They injected it into the brains of normal healthy mice who were given fatty food for two weeks.

"We noted that...this peptide prevents the development of obesity expected from such a diet, restricting fatty deposits," Moles said.

The researchers think the molecule, dubbed TLQP-21, acts on various brain centres that affect calory consumption, including adrenalin receptors. Signalling the importance Italy attaches to the discovery, it was presented Monday by Italy's 1986 Nobel Prizewinner for Medicine, Rita Levi Montalcini, arguably the best-known Italian scientist in the world.

The study appears in the latest edition of the Proceedings of the American Academy of Sciences, one of the world's top scientific journals.