Researchers Find Leptin Link To Brain Function

For nearly a decade, scientists have known that leptin plays an important fat-burning role in humans. But the map of leptin's path through the body--the key to understanding how and why the hormone works--is still incomplete. Now a small but critical section of that map is charted, based on new research.

The research team found that leptin triggers production of the active form of the aMSH peptide in the hypothalamus, the small area in the base of the brain that controls hunger and metabolism. Researchers say this peptide, or small protein, is one of the body's most powerful metabolism booster signals, sending a fast, strong message to the brain to burn calories.

This message is then sent to another part of the hypothalamus, where another peptide is produced and released. This stimulates the pituitary gland, which secretes a hormone that relays the message to the thyroid, the master of metabolism. Once activated, the thyroid gland then spreads word to the body's cells to increase energy production.

Understanding the leptin function--how aMSH is produced and its power as a metabolic messenger--could help in the search for an obesity treatment.

Still, the focus of this research is formulating a pill that can do the heavy lifting when exercise and eating good food according to your nutritional type is much safer and better for you.

EurekAlert July 26, 2004

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