Brain might be key to leptin's actions against type 1 diabetes

October 19, 2010

New findings by UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers suggest a novel role for the brain in mediating beneficial actions of the hormone leptin in type 1 diabetes.

"Our findings really pave the way for understanding the mechanism by which leptin therapy improves type 1 ," said Dr. Roberto Coppari, assistant professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern and senior author of the study involving laboratory mice. "Understanding the mechanism is important, because if we can determine how leptin drives these benefits, then we may be able to develop drugs that eliminate the need for insulin."

The findings are available online and will be published in a future issue of the .

Prior research by Dr. Roger Unger, professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern, has shown that subcutaneous administration of leptin, a hormone produced by the body's , can restore terminally ill rodents with type 1 diabetes to full health. The underlying cellular mechanisms that caused that effect, however, have been unclear.

In the current study, the researchers injected leptin continuously into the brains of mice that lacked any naturally produced insulin. Lack of or reduced is the hallmark of type 1 diabetes in humans.

They found that infusing leptin into the lateral ventricle of the animals' brains reversed the lethal consequences of type 1 diabetes. The results establish the brain as a potentially critical site for mediating the metabolism-improving actions of leptin, Dr. Coppari said.

The team's findings also indicate the smallest amount of leptin required to normalize the animals' , body weight and .

A human clinical trial currently under way at UT Southwestern aims to determine whether adding leptin to standard might help rein in the tumultuous blood-sugar levels of people with type 1 diabetes.

"It might be that leptin treatment is not going to be effective or well-tolerated or that it might cause unwanted effects," Dr. Coppari said. "However, if we understand the mechanisms and how leptin improves type 1 diabetes, then perhaps we can develop alternatives to harness those mechanisms."

The next step, Dr. Coppari said, is to determine which specific nerve cells in the brain are responsible for the anti-type 1 diabetic actions of leptin.

"Living without insulin was once considered impossible, but our results have shown that it is possible when leptin receptor signaling in the brain is enhanced. If we can identify which neurons are responsible for driving the anti-type 1 diabetic actions of leptin, we may eventually develop better therapies for individuals with ."

Related Stories

Recommended for you

How rogue immune cells cross the blood-brain barrier to cause multiple sclerosis

November 21, 2017
Drug designers working on therapeutics against multiple sclerosis should focus on blocking two distinct ways rogue immune cells attack healthy neurons, according to a new study in the journal Cell Reports.

Cinnamon turns up the heat on fat cells

November 21, 2017
New research from the University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute has determined how a common holiday spice—cinnamon—might be enlisted in the fight against obesity.

New simple test could help cystic fibrosis patients find best treatment

November 21, 2017
Several cutting-edge treatments have become available in recent years to correct the debilitating chronic lung congestion associated with cystic fibrosis. While the new drugs are life-changing for some patients, they do not ...

Researchers discover key signaling protein for muscle growth

November 20, 2017
Researchers at the University of Louisville have discovered the importance of a well-known protein, myeloid differentiation primary response gene 88 (MyD88), in the development and regeneration of muscles. Ashok Kumar, Ph.D., ...

New breast cell types discovered by multidisciplinary research team

November 20, 2017
A joint effort by breast cancer researchers and bioinformaticians has provided new insights into the molecular changes that drive breast development.

Brain cell advance brings hope for Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease

November 20, 2017
Scientists have developed a new system to study Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in the laboratory, paving the way for research to find treatments for the fatal brain disorder.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.