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Activating Nerve Cells In Fat Shrinks Fat Cells

September 24, 2015: 12:00 AM EST
The hormone leptin, which is produced by fat cells, tells the brain how much fat is available in the body. The hormone controls weight in the body by regulating food intake and metabolism. But no one knew how the brain signals the fat tissue to begin breaking down. Now Portuguese and U.S. scientists have determined in a mouse study that fat cells have their own nerve circuits, and these can be stimulated. They used a technique called optogenetics to locally activate the sympathetic neurons in fat. They saw fat cells break down and fat tissue shrink. The findings provide some hope that central leptin resistance – in which the brains of obese people do not react to leptin’s signals – can be treated.
Wenwen Zeng et al., "Sympathetic Neuro-adipose Connections Mediate Leptin-Driven Lipolysis", Cell, September 24, 2015, © Elsevier Inc.
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