The molecular intricacies of hunger and satiety, pivotal for understanding metabolic disorders and the problem of obesity, are not yet fully understood by scientists. However, new research from The Rockefeller University reveals an important new component of the system responsible for regulating food intake: a hormone called amylin, which acts in the brain to help control consumption. “How much a person eats is regulated by a complex circuit, and in order to understand it, we need to identify all the molecules involved,” says Jeffrey Friedman, Ph.D., Marilyn M. Simpson Professor and Head of the Laboratory of Molecular Genetics at Rockefeller. “Amylin caught our attention when we were profiling a set of neurons in the hypothalamus, a part of the brain known to be involved in feeding behavior. Because it plays a role in sugar metabolism elsewhere in the body, we were interested in exploring its function in the brain.” Dr. Friedman is well-known for his 1994 discovery of the hormone leptin, one regulator in this process. Defects in leptin production are associated with obesity. However, treating obesity with leptin alone has not proven effective, except in cases of severe leptin deficiency, suggesting that additional components are involved in this system. The new findings, published in the December 1, 2015 issue of Cell Metabolism, suggest that leptin and amylin work in concert to control food intake and body weight. The article is titled “Hypothalamic Amylin Acts in Concert with Leptin to Regulate Food Intake.” Dr. Friedman and colleagues first identified the precursor to amylin (called islet amyloid polypeptide or Iapp) in the brain by using a technology known as “translating ribosome affinity purification,” previously developed by fellow Rockefeller scientists.
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