Can Molecular Imaging Provide Key Insights on Obesity Interventions?


New research presented at the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI) conference suggests that neuroreceptor differences in reactions to visual food cues between obese people and normal-weight individuals may improve the understanding of underlying mechanisms that contribute to obesity.

Changes in how nicotinic acetylcholine receptors respond to visual food cues may have implications in the development of interventions to address obesity, according to new research presented at the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI).

Utilizing the imaging agent 18F-flubatine with positron emission tomography/magnetic resonance imaging (PET/MRI), researchers reviewed data from 15 obese individuals and 16 people with normal weight. According to the study, all the study participants had imaging twice, once in a resting state and once while looking at photos of high-caloric food, on separate days.

While the researchers saw no difference between the groups in resting state imaging, the obese cohort had a higher total distribution of 18F-flubatine and a stronger connectivity with the salience network when viewing food cues, according to the researchers.

The researchers also noted a correlation between the nucleus accumbens and disinhibition measures in obese individuals. Alternately, the study authors found those with normal weight demonstrated a correlation between satiety measurement and total volume distribution in the hypothalamus.

The study authors said cholinergic changes they saw with nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in response to visual food cues may have a potential impact for obesity interventions.

“We anticipate that the results of our study will pave the way for novel drug treatments and behavioral interventions to effectively combat obesity worldwide,” noted Osama Sabri, M.D., Ph.D, a professor, director, and chairman of the Department of Nuclear Medicine at the University of Leipzig in Leipzig, Germany. “In addition, the imaging technology utilized in this study holds promise for identifying biomarkers that can aid in patient stratification and facilitate personalized medicine approaches in the near future.”

(Editor’s note: For related content, see “SPECT Scans Reveal Link Between Obesity, Brain Blood Flow and Alzheimer’s” and “New PET Perfusion Radiotracer May Improve Coronary Artery Disease Diagnosis.”)

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