News of Note—Blocking obesity-promoting brain cells; a gene map for cancer

Obesity
Two newly discovered types of brain cells could prove key in controlling appetite and treating obesity.

Newly discovered brain cells could spark obesity drug development

Hungry? Scientists at Rockefeller University said the urge to eat is all in our brains—and they’ve found two new populations of cells there that may be responsible for regulating appetite. Using whole-brain imaging, the team zeroed in on a region of the brain’s stem called the dorsal raphe nucleus and watched what happened when they manipulated the cell types in mice with different feeding schedules. They found that neurons triggered by hunger release GABA, while those triggered by fullness release glutamate, they reported in the journal Cell. Switching off the GABA-releasing neurons promoted weight loss and could point to a new approach for developing obesity drugs, they suggest. (Rockefeller University)

Cancer genome ‘map’ finds commonalities across tumors

Oncology researchers at the Broad Institute and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have found more than 760 genes that promote the growth and survival of several types of cancer. They did so by screening 501 cell lines from about 20 tumor types, then turning off 17,000 genes one-by-one to identify which ones were key to cancer survival. While most of the genes were found in only one cancer type, they reported in the journal Cell, about 10% were found in many different cancers. The resulting map of cancer-dependent genes is now available for scientists who want to use it to identify new drug targets. (Broad Institute)

DNA-based sunscreen boosts sun protection over time

Ultraviolet rays from the sun are known to damage the skin’s DNA. So scientists at State University of New York in Binghamton figured if they used DNA as the key ingredient in a new type of sunscreen, it might prove more effective than traditional methods for preventing sunburn. Early results look promising: They developed a thin film containing DNA and found that the longer they exposed it to UV light, the better it became at blocking the harmful effects of UV rays. DNA coatings can also store and hold water, giving them a second potential role as moisturizers, the scientists wrote in the journal Scientific Reports. (Binghamton University)