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Georgia State researchers shed light on fat burning
Date:2/5/2009

ATLANTA Researchers at Georgia State University have found that fat cells give feedback to the brain in order to regulate fat burning much the same way a thermostat regulates temperature inside a house.

With as increase in obesity threatening the health and life expectancies of people across the world, the research may help scientists better understand how weight is shed.

C. Kay Song and Tim Bartness of Georgia State, along with Gary J. Schwartz of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, found that during the process of burning fat called lipolysis fat cells use sensory nerves to feed information to the brain.

Using viruses to trace communications in the nerves of Siberian hamsters, they found that the brain uses part of the nervous system used to regulate body functions, called the sympathetic nervous system, to in turn communicate back to the cells to initiate, continue or stop the fat burning depending upon the information the brain receives from the fat.

"The brain can trigger lipid burning by fat cells and through these sensory nerves, the fat cell can give the brain feedback," Bartness explained. "This is a really important concept in biology, as it can regulate the process of lipolysis much like how a thermostat regulates temperature in your house, using input from the air and output to a furnace or heating unit.

"The presence and function of the sensory nerves has been completely ignored and the areas in the brain that receive this sensory information were unknown until we did these studies," he said.

When the body has a low amount of a type of readily available fuel, a carbohydrate called glycogen, the body starts lipolysis to release energy stored in fats. At the end nerves which are part of the sympathetic nervous system, a chemical called norepinephrine is released to trigger the breakdown of fat.

Sensory nerves then appear to report back to the brain to inform it of the status of
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Contact: Jeremy Craig
jcraig@gsu.edu
404-413-1357
Georgia State University
Source:Eurekalert

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