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B. New Insight into the Body's Regulation of Energy Balance

Narrator:
This is Science Today. The main function of the region of the brain called the hypothalamus is homeostasis the regulation of the body's status quo, including food intake and body weight. Christian Vaisse, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, is studying a brain protein expressed in the hypothalamus called the melanocortin-4 receptor, which is already known to play a role in the urge to eat.

Vaisse: In 1998, we actually described the first mutation in the melanocortin 4 receptor in humans and it turns out about 2.5 percent of all severely obese humans have mutations in the melanocortin-4 receptors.

Narrator: Recently, Vaisse discovered a new group of mutations in this receptor that affects the body's baseline level of activity.

Vaisse: This is a protein that is implicated in the long-term regulation of energy balance. So basically, what it helps do is adapt your energy intake, which is your food intake, to your energy expenditure.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.