Brain enzyme plays key role in preventing obesity

December 13th, 2008 - 1:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Dec 13 (IANS) An overactive brain enzyme may play a role in preventing weight gain and obesity, according to the latest findings. To understand what drives hunger and causes metabolic disease, many scientists have focused on the hypothalamus, an almond-sized structure within the brain that controls body temperature, hunger and thirst.

Specialised nerve cells in the hypothalamus sense whether the body contains adequate amounts of nutrients and stored body fat.

The cells then send out signals telling other parts of the brain to adjust food intake, metabolic rates and physical activity - keeping the body’s calorie intake in balance.

To learn more about these nutrient-sensing pathways and how they go awry in metabolic disorders, researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of the Yeshiva University in New York focused on an enzyme called p70 S6 Kinase 1, or S6K, which plays a role in regulating the growth and proliferation of all cells, including nerve cells, according to a college statement.

“It turns out that this enzyme, and the pathway it regulates, is nutrient sensitive - that is, S6K activity increases in the presence of carbohydrates and protein,” said the study’s principal investigator, Gary J. Schwartz, professor of medicine and neuroscience at Einstein College.

“This led us to believe that S6K might not only be involved in maintaining the structure and function of individual cells, but also in regulating the energy balance of the whole body.” The findings were reported in Cell Metabolism.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Posted in Health Science |