Might we be able to turn our immune system against another kind of foe besides infections and viruses? How about fat? Researchers from the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) at the Pasteur Institute and the University of Lille, France, have evidence suggesting the possibility.
The cytokine interleukin-7 (IL-7), an element of the immune system that is critical for maintaining the proper store of immune cells, also prevents obesity-prone mice from getting fat, the researchers report at the 6th International Congress of Neuroendocrinology (ICN 2006) in Pittsburgh June 19 – 22 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.
The researchers used a common mouse model for obesity that involves inducing lesions in the hypothalamus--a part of the brain that regulates appetite--using a common food additive, monosodium glutamate (MSG). As expected, these mice packed on extra ounces--up to 28 percent of their normal body weight. Another set of mice was injected with a single infusion of IL-7 after being given MSG. Interestingly, these mice neither developed lesions nor did they gain weight. According to doctoral student Laurence Macia and co-authors, the results indicate for the first time that IL-7 interacts with the hypothalamus, and moreover, this interaction is related to the brain's regulation of appetite. Perhaps the immune and neuroendocrine systems are more closely linked than previously thought, they conclude.
Held in a different part of the world every four years under the auspices of the International Neuroendocrine Federation, this year's congress – Bridging Neuroscience and Endocrinology – is being sponsored by the American Neuroendocrine Society and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. The first full day of the program, June 20, is being held in conjunction with the 10th Annual Meeting of the Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology.
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