Primary cilia are distinct from motile cilia, the finger-like projections that act as a sort of cellular conveyer belt, with functions such as removing debris from the lungs and windpipe. Immotile primary cilia were once thought to be vestigial, like a cellular appendix, but in the past decade, research at UCSF and elsewhere has revealed that these structures play a key role in many forms of hormonal signaling in the body.
Now the new UCSF study -- published January 8, 2018 in Nature Genetics -- shows that primary cilia also play a crucial role in signaling within the brain. Neuroscientists are accustomed to thinking of brain signaling in terms of direct chemical or electrical communication among neurons at sites called synapses, but the new findings reveal that chemical signaling at primary cilia may also play an important, and previously overlooked role. In addition, the findings suggest potential new therapeutic approaches to the growing global obesity epidemic, the researchers say.
Understanding - Genetics - Obesity - Author - Christian
"We're building a unified understanding of the human genetics of obesity," said senior author Christian Vaisse, MD, PhD, a professor in the Diabetes Center at UCSF and a member of the UCSF Institute for Human Genetics. "Until recently, many obesity researchers had barely heard of primary cilia, but that's going to change."
The modern epidemic of obesity is driven largely by environmental factors, including access to essentially unlimited sources of ready calories paired with increasingly sedentary lifestyles. But not everyone exposed to the same unhealthy conditions becomes overweight. Studies have estimated that genetics contribute between 40 and 70 percent to people's inclination towards unhealthy weight gain.
Geneticists - Alterations - Obesity - Humans - Network
Since the 1990s, geneticists have shown that most of the genetic alterations that contribute to severe obesity in humans appear to disrupt a network of neurons within the brain's hypothalamus. This "hunger circuit" monitors levels of leptin, a hormone...
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