TORONTO, August 9, 2011 A newly-identified protein may hold the key to keeping appetite and blood sugar in check, according to a study by York University researchers.
Suraj Unniappan, associate professor in York's Department of Biology, Faculty of Science & Engineering, is delving into the metabolic effects of a protein called nesfatin-1, abundantly present in the brain. His studies found that rats administered with nesfatin-1 ate less, used more stored fat and became more active. In addition, the protein stimulated insulin secretion from the pancreatic beta cells of both rats and mice.
"[The rats] actually ate more frequently but in lesser amounts," says Unniappan, a member of York's neuroscience graduate diploma program, and a recipient of a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) New Investigator Award. "In addition, they were more active and we found that their fatty acid oxidization was increased. In other words, the energy reserve being preferably used during nesfatin-1 treatment was fat. This suggests more fat loss, which could eventually result in body weight loss," he says.
The findings were reported in two recent research articles from Unniappan's laboratory: one published today in Endocrinology and another in March 2011 in Journal of Endocrinology.
Discovered by a research team from Japan in 2006, nesfatin-1 was earlier found to regulate appetite and the production of body fat when injected into the brain of mice and rats.
Unniappan's findings indicate that the protein stimulates insulin secretion from the pancreas, a glandular organ, which contains clusters of cells called the islets of Langerhans. These islets produce several important hormones, including the primary glucose-lowering hormone, insulin.
Previously, Unniappan's team studied mice and found similar results; not only was insulin secretion stimulated, but nesfatin-
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