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Hormone Regulates Appetite

appetiteMore than two decades ago, the hormone leptin was found to work through neurons in the brain to regulate metabolism, appetite, and weight.[1] Now, the Yale School of Medicine researchers have also found that leptin also acts on other types of cells to control appetite.1 These findings could lead to the development of treatments for metabolic disorders, such as obesity and diabetes.1

“Up until now, the scientific community thought that leptin acts exclusively in neurons to modulate behavior and body weight,” said senior author Tamas Horvath, DVM, MD. “This work is now changing that paradigm.”1

Leptin is a naturally occurring hormone that is known for its hunger-blocking effect on the hypothalamus—a region in the brain.1 Food intake is influenced by signals that travel from the body to the brain, and leptin is one of the molecules that signal the brain to modulate food intake.1 Produced in fat cells, leptin informs the brain of the metabolic state.1 In mouse studies, it was found that if animals are missing leptin or the leptin receptor, they eat too much and become obese.1

Leptin’s effect on metabolism has been found to control the brain’s neuronal circuits; however, no previous studies have found that leptin could control the behavior of cells other than neurons.1 Therefore, to test the theory, Horvath and his team selectively knocked out leptin receptors in the adult non-neuronal glial cells of mice.1 Then, the team recorded the water intake, food intake, and physical activity of the mice every five days.1 Researchers found that the mice responded less to feeding reducing effects of leptin but had heightened feeding responses to the hunger hormone ghrelin.1

“Glial cells provide the main barrier between the periphery and the brain,” said Horvath. “Thus, glial cells could be targeted for drugs that treat metabolic disorders, including obesity and diabetes.”1



[1] Nauert, R. (2014). Mice Research Finds New Ways Hormone Regulates Appetite. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 4, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2014/06/02/mice-research-finds-new-ways-hormone-regulates-appetite/70711.html

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