Hormone leptin may help treat obesity: Study

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New York: A new study has revealed that hormone leptin – known to regulate metabolism, appetite and weight – also influences cells other than neurons that control appetite.

The research, published in the June 1 issue of Nature Neuroscience, could lead to development of treatments for metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes.

Researchers at Yale School of Medicine have found that the hormone also acts on other types of cells to control appetite.

“Until now, the scientific community thought that leptin acts exclusively in neurons to modulate behaviour and body weight,” said Tamas Horvath, the Jean and David W. Wallace professor of biomedical research at Yale School of Medicine.

Leptin, a naturally occurring hormone, is known for its hunger-blocking effect on the hypothalamus, a region in the brain. Leptin hormone is made by fat cells which regulates the amount of fat stored in the body.

Food intake is influenced by signals that travel from the body to the brain. Leptin is one of the molecules that signal the brain to modulate food intake.

If animals are missing leptin, or the leptin receptor, they eat too much and become much too obese.

In the study, Horvath and his team selectively knocked out leptin receptors in the adult non-neuronal glial cells of mice.

The researchers then recorded the water and food intake, as well as physical activity every five days.

The team found that animals responded less to feeding reducing effects of leptin but had heightened feeding responses to the hunger hormone ghrelin.

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

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