Wired for obesity

ScienceDaily | 1/17/2019 | Staff
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In a study published January 17th in the journal Cell, Sadaf Farooqi, PhD, FRCP, FMedSci, of the University of Cambridge and CHLA's Sebastien Bouret, PhD led research teams to uncover key genes that guide the process of brain development.

"We know that the brain, in particular an area called the hypothalamus, has a very important role in the regulation of food intake and blood sugar," explains Bouret, who is also an associate professor of pediatrics at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. Researchers have focused on the hypothalamus for years in an effort to study the epidemic of obesity, which affects nearly 14 million children and adolescents in the United States. "What we don't yet understand," he says, "is how these circuits in the hypothalamus are being organized. We want to know how the brain puts itself together and what exactly governs that process." Understanding this is key because circuits must be established properly in order for the brain to ultimately perform complex functions like maintaining proper weight.

Brain - Cells - Area - Cells - Bouret

Why do certain brain cells connect to one area while specifically avoiding other, nearby cells? Bouret's laboratory investigates how this precise wiring is achieved. Understanding how brain cells in the hypothalamus form these specific, complex connections -- and how this process can be adversely affected -- could provide insight into the development of childhood obesity.

Bouret studied a group of molecules called semaphorins, which are found in abundance in the developing hypothalamus. Brain cells release semaphorins to communicate with other brain cells. These messages act as a sort of road map, guiding cells towards or away from other cells. But what happens to the brain when that road map is no longer functioning properly? Dr. Sophie Croizier, who led the study in Bouret's lab, blocked semaphorin signaling in cells of the hypothalamus. She discovered...
(Excerpt) Read more at: ScienceDaily
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