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Communication between the brain and body fat – nerve signals found that regulate how fat is broken down

01 October 2022

Fat Talks Back

Anyone watching their weight will feel all too aware of their fat, but can fat feed back too? It has long been thought that our adipose tissue, which stores energy as fat cells, communicates information about hunger and metabolism through hormones released into the bloodstream. But a new study using an imaging technique that renders tissues transparent so neurons can be clearly visualised (video) has revealed a direct cellular connection between brain and fat. Some of these neurons link to the sympathetic nervous system – involved in our fight or flight response – but researchers were surprised to see others directly communicating with the brain. Selectively silencing certain groups of these cells showed that they ferry stop and go signals to regulate how fat is broken down. The information exchange is often disrupted in conditions like diabetes and obesity, so perhaps tapping into this line of communication could help with new treatments.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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