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Leptin Also Influences Brain Cells That Control Appetite: Study

Update Date: Jun 02, 2014 10:32 AM EDT

The hormone leptin, apart from regulating metabolism, appetite and weight, also acts on other types of cells to control appetite, according to a new research. 

Researchers said the findings could lead to development of treatments for metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes. 

"Up until now, the scientific community thought that leptin acts exclusively in neurons to modulate behavior and body weight," said senior author Tamas Horvath, the Jean and David W. Wallace Professor of Biomedical Research and chair of comparative medicine at Yale School of Medicine, in the press release. "This work is now changing that paradigm."

Leptin is a naturally occurring hormone which is known for its hunger-blocking effect on the hypothalamus. Signals that travel from the body to the brain influence food intake. Leptin is also one of the molecules that signals the brain to modulate food intake. In case of the absence of leptin, or leptin receptor, animals eat too much and become severely obese. 

The study is first to determine that leptin could control the behavior of cells other than neurons. 

Researchers tested the theory by selectively knocking out leptin receptors in the adult non-neuronal glial cells of mice. 

"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."

The research has been published in the journal Nature Neuroscience. 

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