Scientists from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) identified a hormone which triggers the fat burning metabolism inside the gut. This development might be a key to future therapeutic innovations, especially in preventing excess fat deposition.
The unknown neuropeptide
This hormone identified wasn’t something new or undiscovered till the point, but 80 years back a group of scientists did mention about some peptide group which could initiate muscle contraction tested in pig intestine. Back then they concluded that the hormone had some sort of relation to the intestine, but couldn’t relate it to fat burning.
The study was hosted by The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) under Assistant professor Supriya Srinivasan and research associate Lavinia Palamiuc. According to the senior author Supriya, “this simple study had unlocked one of the mysteries in human biology”. The journal was published in Nature Communications.
Journey towards FLP-7
Previous studies have shown that neurotransmitter serotonin had participation in driving the fat loss, but the exact mechanism was unknown. In order to break the ice, Supriya and her colleagues used a roundworm called C.elegans, which is one common biological model. Though C.elegans have a comparably simpler metabolism compared to humans, they have more similar brain signaling as that of us. This, in fact, promoted the idea of using C.elegans for clinical study.
In order to pinpoint the exact pathway, researchers deleted certain genes from the C.elegans genome and examined any interruption in the brain to intestine signaling. One after another, finally they found that on silencing the code for FLP-7 peptide, there was no signaling occurred, which indeed interrupted the fat burning too, thereby identifying FLP-7 to be the neuropeptide involved.
In the next phase of their study was to identify if serotonin had any direct association with FLP-7. For that Palamiuc tagged the neuropeptide with a red fluorescent marker, which could be easily visualized in the body of transparent roundworm. According to her conclusion, the elevated levels of serotonin trigger the neurons to secrete FLP-7, which takes the circulatory pathway to reach gut to initiate fat burning.
How useful would be this study?
According to researchers, this study was one of the groundbreaking ones because it’s the first time anyone was identifying a brain hormone that interacts directly with the fat burning process without any intake of food or drugs. This way, in future we could develop a more efficient artificial neural signaling method which would help in excess fat burning. The further studies will be focused on learning the consequences of stimulating the FLP-7 via serotonin in order to identify the efficacy score for implementing this in future medical therapeutics.
Source: DOI: 10.1038/ncomms14237