Health & Wellbeing

Discovery of fat breakdown trigger opens door for new obesity treatments

Discovery of fat breakdown tri...
Scientists have zeroed in on the nerves that drive fat breakdown
Scientists have zeroed in on the nerves that drive fat breakdown
View 1 Image
Scientists have zeroed in on the nerves that drive fat breakdown
1/1
Scientists have zeroed in on the nerves that drive fat breakdown

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.

Source: Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência

3 comments
AGO
We figured all this out years ago! Fat gain and loss is a hormonal process. By and large the process of fat accumulation begins with the release of insulin. While insulin is present in the blood, all fat loss is halted to focus the bodies attempt to rid itself of excess carbohydrates. As soon as blood sugars are reduced (either by being used or stored as fat) then insulin subsides in the blood and the absence of insulin allows for the release and use of lipids (fat) for energy. This is why low carb diets have always been so successful. This is a huge dilemma for the medical establishment though because they have mistakenly and ademately declared that fat is bad and a diet high in carbs (that provoke the release of insulin) is good! If you are overweight or suffer from any metabolic diseases (diabetes, heart disease, dementia, cancer). A high fat low carb diet will have enormous benefits. I speak from experience. Those who dare to do the diet are always amazed at the results. Those who don't say it is dangerous and stupid. Do your own homework. Research ketogenic diets....
S Michael
High fat and low carb diet. Humm... interesting can you recommend one?
AGO
Specifically S Michael a diet that is about 70% fat, 15-20% protein and 10-15% carbs is what I'm talking about. It is currently being used to cure every metabolic disease there is. I used it to cure my diabetes and my mothers Alzheimer's. Ref: "good calorie bad calorie" by Gary Taubes and "grain brain" by Dr David Perlmutter. Also see books by Dr Tim Noakes and Steve Phinney and Jeff Volek. Also ref: Dr Dominik Dagostino... YouTube it!!! Carbs are the cause of metabolic disease in our modern society. When you ketogenically adapt (fat adapt). You rid yourself of these diseases including cancer!!!