Fat Hormone May Play Role In Hearing, Vision Loss
September 27, 2012

Fat Hormone May Play Role In Hearing, Vision Loss

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

A new study indicates that leptin, or the "fat hormone," may play a role in hearing and vision loss, on top of weight gain.

Researchers wrote in the journal General and Comparative Endocrinology that leptin could ultimately help doctors better understand sensory loss in humans.

During the study, the scientists were able to develop zebrafish that were able to produce low leptin.

While studying the zebrafish, scientists assumed the leptin-deficient fish would be unable to metabolize fat. However, they did not expect to find that it affects the development of sensory systems.

"We discovered that leptin influences the development of eyes and ears in fish," Richard Londraville, University of Akron professor of biology, said in a press release.

Previous studies in mice found that leptin controls body temperature, immune functions and bone density. These studies also revealed that leptin loss also affects eye and ear development in mice.

Now, the team has determined a drop in leptin dramatically alters zebrafish development, which could have similar effects on humans.

"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 said in the release. "Perhaps more research should be spent on the sensory effects of leptin, which hasn't received much attention."

The team received an additional $435,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to further their research. The scientists will be using the funds over the next three years to study how leptin is controlled differently in mammals and fish and the resulting consequences.

They received a $250,000 grant from the same organization initially to kick start this research. The research was led by University of Akron Professor of Biology Dr. Qin Liu.

Liu is a leading expert on the technology that allowed leptin manipulation of the zebrafish.

Leptin has been the subject of about 30,000 reports since its discovery back in 1994. The hormone achieved notoriety as it signals to the brain when it is time to eat.