Researchers have identified brain cells that regulate both calorie intake and energy expenditure.
Losing weight requires a combination of reduced calorie intake and increased exercise to burn up calories rather than have them stored as fat. Generally, the weight-loss drugs developed to date only tackle the first part by attempting to curb hunger. That might change based on the results of research being conducted at Rockefeller University and Princeton University.
Scientists there sought to find brain cells that regulate both calorie intake and energy expenditure. The neurons involved in controlling hunger are located in the dorsal raphe nucleus region of the brain. The researchers found that in mouse models inhibiting these neurons reduces food intake and increases energy expenditure. Specifically, turning the neurons off led the brown or healthy fat in the mice to burn more energy.
These results were obtained using an advanced 3D-imaging tool developed at Rockefeller University to observe the brains of mice exposed to heat.
Next on the agenda is to identify receptors in the dorsal raphe nucleus neurons that control both energy expenditure and food intake that may serve as targets for next-generation weight-loss drugs.