Brain- Stomach conversation to be decoded by chemists – University of Copenhagen

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13 July 2012

Brain- Stomach conversation to be decoded by chemists

Obesity

The Department of Chemistry is receiving support from the Danish National Advanced Technology Foundation for a project designed to reveal how the stomach communicates with the brain in relation to food intake.

Professor Knud J. Jensen, Department of Chemistry, University of Copenhagen

Molecules tell brain when stomach is full

A rumbling stomach is what tells most people that they are hungry. And when the belt becomes too tight we know we're full. But in between these two distinct and opposing signals the stomach is in constant chemical correspondence with the brain. An unconscious conversation takes place in which the pronunciation of words occurs with an inaudible but distinct language of chemical signals.

Now, chemists at the University of Copenhagen will be helping doctors at Gentofte Hospital and the pharmaceuticals firm GuBra to decipher this chemical language. Indeed, if doctors could sneak new messages into the conversation, they might be able to alleviate ailments such as diabetes and obesity, explains Professor Knud J. Jensen.

"We know that it’s the brain that tells us when we should put the knife and fork down!

Knud J. Jensen, Professor, Kemisk Institut

”We know that it’s the brain that tells us when we should put the knife and fork down, but we are pretty sure that the brain only says something once it has received a signal from the stomach. We want to uncover which signaling substances are responsible for this communication", says professor Jensen.

European peptide champion to decode language of hunger

Professor Knud J. Jensen of the Department of Chemistry is an internationally recognized peptides expert, peptides being the biochemical signaling substances. It is assumed that they are what the stomach uses to send messages to the brain.

Knud J. Jensen, professor, kemisk Institut, Københavns Universitet

Professor jensens research group, Nanobioscience, will be responsible for analyzing the chemical composition of these signaling substances.

First decode, then copy then cure

Once the group has uncovered what the peptides are made of, they'll be tasked with producing synthetic chemical versions of the biological molecules.

GuBra, a pharmaceuticals firm, will use the synthetic peptides in their own attempts to produce signal-disrupting molecules that can interfere with the stomach-brain chemical communication.

 

This makes the synthetic peptides central in the attempt to design drugs that can work against a range of diseases related to obesity.

The 25 million kroner research project is expected to last four years. It is backed by 14 million kroner from the Danish National Advanced Technology Foundation.