Cachexia results in declines in physical mobility and function. These can lead to falls, loss of independence, institutionalization, and even death.
What Causes Cachexia?
A team of scientists led by Professor Ketan Patel recently linked cachexia or wasting syndrome to DNA damage. The director of the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine in Oxford connected the DNA damage to the disruption of chemical messengers sent to the brain. This causes the brain to release appetite-suppressing hormones resulting in severe weight loss.
The researchers found that naturally occurring formaldehyde can build up in a person’s bloodstream to initiate that process. When it is filtered by the kidneys, their cells suffer DNA damage. The kidneys then secrete a hormone called GDF15 to message the brain and suppress appetite.
“When you have chemotherapy, you are given a chemical substance that attacks DNA in much the same way as formaldehyde does,” said Patel. “In other words, it may be damaging DNA and triggering these signals that tell the brain to suppress appetite.”