Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


UCLA scientists discover hormone may spur dramatic weight loss


The only known adults in the world who possess a rare genetic mutation that prevents their bodies from producing leptin may open the door to a new way of fighting fat. After injections with leptin -- a human hormone linked to appetite control -- the adults’ dramatic weight loss suggests that leptin offers significant promise for treating obesity.

Dr. Julio Licinio, professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, flew three cousins -- two women and one man -- from a tiny village in Turkey to UCLA Medical Center last September for clinical research treatment with leptin. Ranging in age from the late 20s to 40, all of the cousins were severely obese and one was still prepubescent.

"We hypothesized that leptin deficiency may lead to obesity and, in some cases, delay sexual and psychological maturity," explained Licinio, also a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute. "Although this is a small study, it produced striking results."

Ten months after the study began, the three adults have lost half of their body weight -- more than 150 pounds each. But the leptin therapy resulted in dramatic outcomes beyond their weight loss, including physiological and personality changes.

After receiving leptin injections, the prepubescent adult began experiencing a wide range of physiological changes associated with adolescence and rapidly reached sexual maturity. In addition, UCLA researchers observed neurological growth in all three participants.

"At the end of the study, we measured the subjects’ brains with MRI and discovered that the organs had expanded a small but significant amount," Licinio said. "While the relevance of this outcome is currently unclear, it poses the first known instance of brain growth in adults."

Earlier research conducted on laboratory animals born without the ability to make leptin showed that they possessed brains 30 percent smaller than their normal counterparts. Until now, however, scientists had never studied the effect of leptin deficiency and replacement in humans.

The cousins’ dispositions also altered. Within two weeks of leptin therapy, they grew noticeably more assertive and independent.

"The subjects’ personality changes suggest that there is a relationship between fat and how we feel," Licinio said. "We plan to explore leptin’s link to mood disorders in the future."

Manufactured in the fat cells, leptin plays three important roles in the human body. First, the hormone signals fullness, controls the appetite and tells the brain to stop eating. Second, it is triggered by puberty and regulates sexual development. And third, it helps the immune system fight off diseases -- a critical weapon in staving off childhood diseases.

According to Licinio, science originally considered leptin a gold mine for weight control. Later, however, researchers discovered that obese people produced too much of the hormone and their bodies simply stopped responding to its appetite cues.

In rare cases, though, some people -- like the adults in Licinio’s study -- become obese because they manufacture too little leptin. Licinio decided to study the cousins in order to better understand the role that leptin plays in normal human biology.

The only side effect of the leptin replacement therapy was a minor rash at the injection site that lasted briefly in one patient.

Licinio is a member of the Brain Research Institute, director of the UCLA Pharmacogenetics and Pharmacogenomics Research Group, and founding editor-in-chief for The Pharmacogenomics Journal and Molecular Psychiatry.

The UCLA study was funded by the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases and the National Center for Research Resources. Licinio’s colleagues at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute included Dr. Ma-Li Wong, Dr. Edythe London, Dr. Sinan Caglayan, and Dr. Bulent Yildez. Licinio also collaborated with Dr. Metin Ozata at the Gulhane School of Medicine in Turkey.

The Thousand Oaks-based pharmaceutical firm Amgen supplied the UCLA researchers with complimentary leptin for the duration of the study and paid $7,500 to Licinio for patient recruitment.

Future UCLA projects will explore the interactions of leptin and other hormones in the elderly, how leptin replacement influences the human endocrine system, and the effect of a single mutation in one of the two genes that encode for human leptin.

Elaine Schmidt | EurekAlert

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth

23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm

23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>