Researchers have identified a previously unknown communication pathway that allows fat to communicate directly with the brain, at least in mice. By eliminating this link, the rodents burned more fat. More work is needed, but disrupting this communication network could one day help treat obesity in humans.
We’ve known for a long time that the brain uses neurons in the sympathetic nervous system to tell the body to burn more fat. Until now, however, scientists believed that the reverse communication (from fat to brain) was less direct, with hormones released into the bloodstream sending messages to the brain.
A new study published in the journal Nature It shows that fat directly sends messages to the brain via so-called sensory nerve cells Spinal cord neck.
Beige fat that fights obesity
Located near the spinal cord, dorsal root ganglia (DRGs) extend long fibers to peripheral organs. The collected sensory information is then sent to the brain via the spinal cord. Researchers have long known that DRGs carry information from the skin and muscles to the brain. However, due to the difficulty of visualizing these neurons in action, until now it has been difficult to determine what information neurons transmit from adipose tissue to the brain via DRGs.
Eventually, researchers found a way to do just that. As part of this work, neuroscientist Lee Yeh and his team at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., fluorescently labeled DRG neurons that extended into the adipose tissue of several mice. Using a previously developed system to look through animal tissue, the researchers were able to observe the activity of DRGs from near the spinal cord to fat pads.
As a reminder, fat comes in many colors depending on how the body uses it. For example, brunette burns generate heat. White is mostly saved (this is what you want to hide). Finally, brown is placed between the two. When the body needs to burn more fat, these adipose tissues turn into brown fat in an attempt to generate heat. When the body doesn’t need to burn it, brown fat turns white and is therefore stored.
So these adipose tissues are more “dynamic” than others. For this reason, researchers believe they may play an important role in obesity problems. For this study, the team focused on
Cut the “car brakes”.
During their experiments, the researchers suppressed the DRG neurons connected to this brown fat with a virus. As a result, genes related to fat production and thermogenesis were intensified. In other words, The mice burned more fat. Their brown fat also turned brown, a sign that the rodent’s temperature had risen.
One way to better appreciate the process is to imagine the following analogy. If the body is a car and fat is fueled, the sympathetic nervous system acts like an accelerator pedal, telling the body to burn more fuel (and thus more fat). Instead, a newly discovered fat-brain communication system appears to be at work A brake pedal, acting against the accelerator pedal of the sympathetic nervous system. Here, there are researchers Cut the brakes, it promotes fat burning.
Researchers theorize that this “braking system” tells the brain how much fat to burn, ensuring the body doesn’t burn too much. This is only preliminary work, but it will be interesting to see if such a process can work in humans, and if so, if the process can be manipulated in hopes of helping obese people lose weight.