Yale researchers find a molecular duo dictates weight and energy levels
Yale University researchers have discovered a key cellular mechanism that may help the brain control how much we eat, what we weigh, and how much energy we have. The findings describe the regulation of a family of cells that project throughout the nervous system and originate in an area of the brain called the hypothalamus, which has been long known to control energy balances. Scientists and pharmaceutical companies are closely investigating the role of melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH) neurons in controlling food intake and energy. Previous studies have shown that MCH makes lab animals eat more, sleep more, and have less energy. In contrast, other hypothalamic neurons use the thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) as a neurotransmitter, and these neurons reduce food intake and body weight, and increase physical activity. The Yale study of brains of mice shows that the two systems appear to act in direct opposition, to help the organism keep these crucial functions in balance.