Monash University researchers unravelled a molecular mechanism that depends on the combined action of two hormones - leptin, an appetite suppressant generated in fat cells, and insulin, produced in the pancreas in response to rising levels of glucose in the blood. The research shows that the two hormones act in concert on a group of neurons in the brain to stimulate the burning of body fat via the nervous system.
Lead researcher Tony Tiganis said discovering the combined action of these two hormones makes could assist in the shedding of excess fat, adding that these hormones give the brain a comprehensive picture of the fatness of the body and because leptin is produced by fat cells, it measures the level of existing fat reserves, whereas insulin provides a measure of future fat reserves because glucose levels rise when people eat.
The research team discovered leptin and insulin interact with proopiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons in the brain's hypothalamus, causing them to send signals through the nervous system promoting the conversion of white fat into brown fat. This leads to burning off of excess fat.
Tiganis continued that eventually, they think they may be able to help people lose weight by targeting these two enzymes and turning white fat into brown fat is a very exciting new approach to developing weight loss agents, but it is not an easy task, and any potential therapy is a long way off.
The study is published in the journal Cell.