Posts Tagged ‘leptin’

In a new study researchers from the Institute for Experimental Pediatric Endocrinology of the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin have successfully treat patients whose obesity is caused by a genetic defect. Aside from its beneficial effects on the patients, the researchers also provided insights into the fundamental signaling pathways regulating satiety of the new drug. The results of this research have been published in Nature Medicine*.

A mutation in the gene encoding the leptin receptor (LEPR) can cause extreme hunger starting with the first months of life. As a result, affected individuals develop extreme obesity during childhood. Increased exercise and reduced caloric intake are usually insufficient to stabilize body-weight. In many cases, obesity surgery fails to deliver any benefits, meaning that a drug-based treatment approach becomes increasingly important.

Two years ago, Dr. Peter Kühnen and the working group successfully demonstrated that treatment with a peptide, which activates the melanocortin 4 receptor (MC4R) could play a central role in the body’s energy metabolism and body weight regulation. Leptin, which is also known as the satiety (or starvation) hormone, normally binds to the LEPR, triggering a series of steps that leads to the production of melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH). The act of MSH by binding to its receptor, the melanocortin 4 receptor (MC4R) which transduce the satiety signal to the body. However, if the LEPR is defective, the signaling cascade is interrupted. The patient’s hunger remains unabated, placing them at greater risk of becoming obese. As part of this current study, researchers used a peptide that binds to the MC4R in the brain, and this activation trigger the normal satiety signal. Working in cooperation with the Clinical Research Unit at the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH), the researchers were able to record significant weight loss in patients with genetic defects affecting the LEPR.

“We also wanted to determine why the used peptide was so effective and why, in contrast to other preparations with a similar mode of action, it did not produce any severe side effects,” explains Dr. Kühnen. “We were able to demonstrate that this treatment leads to the activation of a specific and important signaling pathway, whose significance had previously been underestimated.” Dr. Kühnen’s team is planning to conduct further research to determine whether other patients might benefit from this drug: “It is possible that other groups of patients with dysfunctions affecting the same signaling pathway might be suitable candidates for this treatment.”

*Clément K, et al., MC4R agonism promotes durable weight loss in patients with leptin receptor deficiency, Nature Medicine (2018), doi:10.1038/s41591-018-0015-9.

https://www.charite.de/en/service/press_reports/artikel/detail/den_unstillbaren_hunger_abschalten/

Advertisements

While it’s known that the brain is responsible for instructing our fat stores to break down and release energy as we need it, scientists haven’t yet been able to pin down exactly how this process plays out. Leptin, a hormone produced by our fat cells, travels to the brain to regulate appetite, metabolism and energy, but it hasn’t been clear what communication was coming back the other way. New research has now uncovered this missing link for the first time, revealing a set of nerves that connect with fat tissue to stimulate the process in a development that could lead to new types of anti-obesity treatments.

The leptin hormone was identified around 20 years ago as a regulator of the body’s metabolism. Low levels of the hormone serve to boost one’s appetite and slow metabolism, while conversely, high leptin levels dull the appetite and facilitate better fat breakdown. Using a combination of techniques, a research team led by Ana Domingos from Portugal’s Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência were able to shed light on how leptin behaves when sending signals back to the fat by finding the nerves that meet with white fat tissue to prompt its breakdown.

“We dissected these nerve fibers from mouse fat, and using molecular markers identified these as sympathetic neurons,” explains Domingos. “When we used an ultra sensitive imaging technique, on the intact white fat tissue of a living mouse, we observed that fat cells can be encapsulated by these sympathetic neural terminals.”

But to determine the extent of these neurons’ role in obesity, the team carried out further research on mice. The rodents were genetically engineered so that these neurons could be switched on and off through optogenetics, where brain cells are made to behave differently by exposing them to light. Optogenetics is an emerging technique we have seen explored as a means of treating blindness and altering our pain threshold, among other things.

Domingos’ team found that flicking the switch on the neurons locally triggered the release of a neurotransmitter called norepinephrine, which in turn flooded the fat cells with signals that brought about fat breakdown. The team report that without these sympathetic neurons, leptin was not able to stimulate fat breakdown on its own. Therefore the findings suggest that these sympathetic neurons offer a potential target for obesity treatments other than leptin, which the brains of many obese people have a resistance to.

“This result provides new hopes for treating central leptin resistance, a condition in which the brains of obese people are insensitive to leptin,” says Domingos.

The team’s research was published in the journal Cell.

http://www.gizmag.com/neural-mechanism-fat-breakdown-anti-obesity-therapies/39601/