Four years after its discovery, the weight-controlling protein hormone leptin is still making news. At the American Diabetes Association meeting in Chicago June 14, researchers from Amgen Inc. of Thousand Oaks, Calif., announced promising results of a Phase I clinical trial of leptin. And more than 100 papers and posters featured leptin at the Endocrine Society's annual meeting in New Orleans, June 24 to 27.

Much of the excitement, though, lies beyond leptin, with the other players in the signal transduction pathways that control food intake. "We know so much more about the leptin system than we did four years ago. The number of potential drug targets goes up all the time--we're all like kids in the candy store," says Randy Seeley, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

Commercial interest in anti-obesity drug development is intense. According to the Institute of Medicine, obesity...

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