by James Radke, PhD
Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) is a genetic disease best characterized by individuals developing an insatiable appetite, which leads to chronic overeating and obesity. Children with this syndrome are always hungry and go to great lengths to continue eating. In many cases, fridges must be locked to deter children from eating.
In addition, these children often have a distinctive behavioral phenotype (with temper tantrums, stubbornness, manipulative behavior, and obsessive-compulsive characteristics) as well as some cognitive impairment.
Studies in animals and humans indicate that disruption of oxytocin may be related to PWS although the nature of that disruption is unclear. Based on the knowledge that oxytocin is known to be involved in food intake, body weight, and social skills — all of which are seriously affected in patients with PWS — Kuppens et al looked at the effects of oxytocin in PWS patients to determine if the hormone could change these children’s behavior and/or psychology.
Their study was recently published online ahead of print in Clinical Endocrinology. The data supports the theory that oxytocin plays a role in PWS and warrants further investigation.