FATTY ACIDS AND LIPOPROTEIN LIPASE (LPL) MAY HOLD KEY TO OBESITY IN THE BRAIN
Basic science researchers continue to examine the molecular and biochemical structure that controls metabolism. Researchers are unlocking some of the mysteries as to the biochemical basis of obesity. In one recent such study released in January of 2011, Dr. Hong Wang and a team of researchers from the University of Colorado School of medicine in collaboration with other institutions described a study of fatty acid metabolism in brain cells. Their research involves a specific type of genetically modified mouse that has an impaired lipoprotein lipase enzyme in the brain cells or neurons. Lipoprotein lipase is an important enzyme in the neurons that allows the breakdown of fats into its building blocks and allows the free fatty acids to be delivered to the brain. What these researchers discovered was that impairing that enzymatic process led to the mice eating more and becoming more sedentary, and then becoming obese.
The area of the brain that was most affected appeared to be hypothalamus, one of the central regulatory centers of the brain. It is hypothesized that the lipoprotein lipase allows delivery of fatty acids to these important brain cells in the sensitive hypothalamic brain nuclei that provide important signals to regulate body metabolism, body energy expenditure and body mass.
While these studies are at the level of the laboratory and the animal neurons, they appear to hold important clues for the future of improved understanding of metabolism and obesity. One day it is hoped such research will lead to pharmaceutical interventions, which might promote improved delivery of free fatty acids to the hypothalamus and serve to re-institute proper metabolism and energy balance in people who are losing it and gaining weight.