What causes appetite loss during illness

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New York, May 5 (IANS) Researchers have discovered how an immune system molecule hijacks a brain circuit and reduces appetite when you are inflicted with an illness.

While loss of appetite during illness is common, it contributes to reducing a patient’s strength and in cancer patients, it can even shorten lifespan.

The new research points to potential targets for treating loss of appetite and restoring a patient’s strength.

“Treating loss of appetite won’t cure an underlying disease, but it could help a patient cope,” said senior author of the study Bruno Conti, professor at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in California, US.

“Many times, loss of appetite can compromise clinical outcome. A weak individual is less likely to be able to cope with chemotherapy, for instance,” Conti said.

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Many people recover their appetite after illness. But in patients with diseases such as cancer or AIDS, loss of appetite can turn into a wasting disease called cachexia, also known as “the last illness” because it can accelerate a patient’s decline.

The findings were published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

The researchers believe the circuit affected by an immune molecule called interleukin 18 (IL-18) may be a potential drug target for treating loss of appetite, and possibly support weight loss for those with metabolic disorders.

“IL-18 regulates feeding by locking directly into the neuronal circuitry,” Conti said.



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