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Leptin, a hormone that controls hunger

Twenty years after leptin was identified as the hormone that regulates metabolism and weight through neurons, Yale School of Medicine researchers have found that this molecule also controls appetite. The findings could spark treatments for metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes.

“So far the scientific community thought that leptin modulates behaviour and body weight by acting exclusively in neurons,” said senior author Tamas Horvath, the Jean and David W. Wallace Professor of Biomedical Research and chair of comparative medicine at Yale School of Medicine. “This work is changing that paradigm.”

A naturally occurring hormone leptin is known to block hunger in a region of the brain called hypothalamus. Our food intake is governed by the signals our brain receives from the body through molecules like Leptin. Produced in fat cells the hormone keeps the brain informed about the metabolic state of your body. Animals that lack leptin, or the leptin receptor, eat excessively and become severely obese.

Although leptin has been found to control the brain’s neuronal circuits thereby effecting metabolism, there has been nothing so far to prove that it could control the behaviour of cells other than neurons.

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