Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Weight Struggles? Blame New Neurons in Your Hypothalamus

22.05.2012
Neurogenesis spurred by a high-fat diet encourages more eating and fat storage, animal study suggests

New nerve cells formed in a select part of the brain could hold considerable sway over how much you eat and consequently weigh, new animal research by Johns Hopkins scientists suggests in a study published in the May issue of Nature Neuroscience.

The idea that the brain is still forming new nerve cells, or neurons, into adulthood has become well-established over the past several decades, says study leader Seth Blackshaw, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. However, he adds, researchers had previously thought that this process, called neurogenesis, only occurs in two brain areas: the hippocampus, involved in memory, and the olfactory bulb, involved in smell.

More recent research suggests that a third area, the hypothalamus — associated with a variety of bodily functions, including sleep, body temperature, hunger and thirst — also produces new neurons. However, the precise source of this neurogenesis and the function of these newborn neurons remained a mystery.

To answer these questions, Blackshaw and his colleagues used mice as a model system. The researchers started by investigating whether any particular part of the hypothalamus had a high level of cell growth, suggesting that neurogenesis was occurring. They injected the animals with a compound called bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU), which selectively incorporates itself into newly replicating DNA of dividing cells, where it’s readily detectable. Within a few days, the researchers found high levels of BrdU in an area of the hypothalamus called the median eminence, which lies on the base of the brain’s fluid-filled third ventricle.

Further tests showed that these rapidly proliferating cells were tanycytes, a good candidate for producing new neurons since they have many characteristics in common with cells involved in neurogenesis during early development. To confirm that tanycytes were indeed producing new neurons and not other types of cells, Blackshaw and his colleagues selectively bred mice that produced a fluorescent protein only in their tanycytes. Within a few weeks, they found neurons that also fluoresced, proof that these cells came from tanycyte progenitors.

With the source of hypothalamic neurogenesis settled, the researchers turned to the question of function. Knowing that many previous studies have suggested that animals raised on a high-fat diet are at significantly greater risk of obesity and metabolic syndrome as adults, Blackshaw’s team wondered whether hypothalamic neurogenesis might play a role in this phenomenon.

The researchers fed mice a diet of high-fat chow starting at weaning and looked for evidence of neurogenesis at several different time points. While very young animals showed no difference compared with mice fed normal chow, neurogenesis quadrupled in adults that had consistently eaten the high-fat chow since weaning. These animals gained more weight and had higher fat mass than animals raised on normal chow.

When Blackshaw and his colleagues killed off new neurons in the high-fat eaters by irradiating just their median eminences with precise X-ray beams, the mice gained significantly less weight and fat than animals who had eaten the same diet and were considerably more active, suggesting that these new neurons play a critical role in regulating weight, fat storage and energy expenditure.

“People typically think growing new neurons in the brain is a good thing — but it’s really just another way for the brain to modify behavior,” Blackshaw explains. He adds that hypothalamic neurogenesis is probably a mechanism that evolved to help wild animals survive and helped our ancestors do the same in the past. Wild animals that encounter a rich and abundant food source would be well-served to eat as much as possible, since such a resource is typically scarce in nature.

Being exposed to such a resource during youth, and consequently encouraging the growth of neurons that would promote more food intake and energy storage in the future, would be advantageous. However, Blackshaw explains, for lab animals as well as people in developed countries, who have nearly unlimited access to abundant food, such neurogenesis isn’t necessarily beneficial — it could encourage excessive weight gain and fat storage when they’re not necessary.

If the team’s work is confirmed in future studies, he adds, researchers might eventually use these findings as a basis to treat obesity by inhibiting hypothalamic neurogenesis, either by irradiating the median eminence or developing drugs that inhibit this process.

Other Hopkins researchers involved in this study include Daniel A. Lee, Joseph L. Bedong, Thomas Pak, Hong Wang, Juan Song, Ana Miranda-Angulo, Vani Takiar, Vanessa Charubhumi, Susan Aja and Eric Ford.

This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, a Basil O’Connor Starter Scholar Award, the Klingenstein Fund and NARSAD. Seth Blackshaw is a W.M. Keck Distinguished Young Scholar in Medical Research.

Related Stories:
Seth Blackshaw on mapping genes in order to find treatments for hereditary blindness

Genetic 'Parts' List Now Available For Key Part of The Mammalian Brain

'Moonlighting' Molecules Discovered

The Difference Between Eye Cells is...Sumo?

For more information, go to:
http://neuroscience.jhu.edu/SethBlackshaw.php
http://www.nature.com/neuro/index.html
Media Contacts:
Audrey Huang; 410-614-5105; audrey@jhmi.edu
Vanessa McMains; 410-502-9410; vmcmain1@jhmi.edu

Audrey Huang | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.jhmi.edu

Further reports about: Blame Hypothalamus Neuroscience X-ray beam brain area fat storage nerve cell neurons

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Observing the cell's protein factories during self-assembly
15.06.2018 | Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin

nachricht Scientists unravel molecular mechanisms of Parkinson's disease
13.06.2018 | The Francis Crick Institute

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: AchemAsia 2019 will take place in Shanghai

Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.

Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...

Im Focus: First real-time test of Li-Fi utilization for the industrial Internet of Things

The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.

Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.

Im Focus: Sharp images with flexible fibers

An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.

Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...

Im Focus: Photoexcited graphene puzzle solved

A boost for graphene-based light detectors

Light detection and control lies at the heart of many modern device applications, such as smartphone cameras. Using graphene as a light-sensitive material for...

Im Focus: Water is not the same as water

Water molecules exist in two different forms with almost identical physical properties. For the first time, researchers have succeeded in separating the two forms to show that they can exhibit different chemical reactivities. These results were reported by researchers from the University of Basel and their colleagues in Hamburg in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

From a chemical perspective, water is a molecule in which a single oxygen atom is linked to two hydrogen atoms. It is less well known that water exists in two...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Munich conference on asteroid detection, tracking and defense

13.06.2018 | Event News

2nd International Baltic Earth Conference in Denmark: “The Baltic Sea region in Transition”

08.06.2018 | Event News

ISEKI_Food 2018: Conference with Holistic View of Food Production

05.06.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

New type of photosynthesis discovered

18.06.2018 | Life Sciences

New ID pictures of conducting polymers discover a surprise ABBA fan

18.06.2018 | Life Sciences

The car of the future – sleeper cars and travelling offices too?

18.06.2018 | Automotive Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>