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article imageBody cell's link to obesity

By Tim Sandle     Jun 8, 2014 in Science
The hormone leptin, which signals fullness to animals, has been shown to act through neurons. New research suggests that another type of cell is also involves called glia. The finding could have implications for obesity research.
The hormone leptin operates on neurons in the brain to let animals, including people, know when they have eaten enough. Leptin is a hormone made by fat cells which regulates the amount of fat stored in the body. It does this by adjusting both the sensation of hunger, and adjusting energy expenditures. When things go wrong, some scientists think that the inability of the brain to detect when the body is full is one of the triggers for obesity.
Tamas Horvath, a neurobiologist at Yale School of Medicine, and his colleagues shave carried out studies to show that glia are also receptive to leptin, and blocking the cells’ leptin receptors alters feeding behaviors in mice. Glial cells are non-neuronal cells that maintain homeostasis, form myelin, and provide support and protection for neurons in the brain and peripheral nervous system.
In Horvath's study, it was noted that there were hints that a particular type of glial cell, called an astrocyte, might respond to leptin and take an active part in the leptin signaling that goes on in the brain. To test this, they knocked out leptin receptors in the astrocytes of adult mice and found that the cells were smaller andwere involved in feeding circuits.
This finding might change the direction of obesity research and the application of leptin supplements as a means to prevent obese people from over-eating.
The findings have been published in Nature Neuroscience, in a paper titled "Leptin signaling in astrocytes regulates hypothalamic neuronal circuits and feeding."
More about Cells, Body, Obesity, Mice, Leptin
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