Leptin, which is commonly referred to as the "fat hormone," is typically associated with telling the brain when to eat. Now, researchers at The University of Akron (UA) and Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED) believe that Leptin may also play a role in human sensory systems, particularly hearing and vision.

Dr Richard Londraville, professor of biology at UA, and colleagues were studying Leptin’s relationship to metabolizing fat in zebrafish that were treated to produce low Leptin. While the scientists expected the Leptin-deficient fish would be unable to metabolize fat, "we did not expect that the Leptin also affects the development of sensory systems," says Londraville in a university press release,

That Leptin influences the development of eyes and ears in fish adds to the knowledge of how the hormone affects body temperature, immune function, and bone density. The hormone’s newly discovered impact on the sensory systems of fish draws renewed interest to previous Leptin research on mice, Londraville says. These studies revealed that Leptin loss also affects eye and ear development in mice.

But does Leptin have the same affect in humans? While the evidence is promising, researchers continue to explore that theory.

Published in the September 15, 2012, General and Comparative Endocrinology journal, "Knockdown of Leptin A Expression Dramatically Alters Zebrafish Development" explores Leptin’s evolution, or what it used to do, to provide clues to its impact on humans. The research was led by UA Professor of Biology Dr Qin Liu, a leading expert on the technology that allowed Leptin manipulation of the zebrafish.

"There is some evidence that Leptin deficiencies in fish likely have the same effect on humans, so this may be pointing toward something more widespread than we thought," Londraville says. "Perhaps more research should be spent on the sensory effects of Leptin, which hasn’t received much attention."

Londraville and his research colleagues will further their research, which was initially launched with a $250,000 National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant. The team was granted an additional $435,000 in NIH funding, which they will use over the next 3 years to study how Leptin is controlled differently in mammals and fish and the resulting consequences.

SOURCE: The University of Akron (UA)