Week in Review: January 12–16

Insulin, leptin, the brain, and “good” fat; CD4 vaccines and immunopathology in mice; more

Jan 16, 2015
Tracy Vence

How brain hormones affect fat

JUSTIN HEWLETT, MNHS MULTIMEDIA, MONASH UNIVERSITYInsulin and leptin activate appetite-suppressing proopiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons in the mouse brain that promote the conversion of “bad” white fat to “good” beige fat, investigators from Monash University in Australia and their colleagues showed in Cell this week (January 15).

“The authors show that [insulin and leptin] directly interact in the brain to produce nervous-system signaling both to white and brown adipose tissue,” said Jan Nedergaard, a professor of physiology at Stockholm University who was not involved in the work. “This is a nice demonstration of how the acute and chronic energy status talks to the thermogenic tissues.”

Study coauthor Garron Dodd of Monash suggested his team’s results could have implications for treating humans. The findings, he said, are “really exciting as, perhaps, resistance to the actions of leptin and insulin in POMC neurons is a key feature underlying obesity in people.”

Balancing vaccination and immunity

WIKIMEDIA, BIGGISHBENRagon Institute researchers investigating the effects of vaccines that exclusively elicit a T helper cell response in mice found that, once infected with lymphocytic cytomegalovirus, the animals suffered uncontrolled inflammation, multiple organ failure, and death. Their results were published in Science this week (January 15).

“It’s an important cautionary message that in any kind of vaccination one needs to consider the likelihood of getting a balanced immune response,” immunologist Dan Littman of New York University Langone Medical Center who was not involved in the work told The Scientist.

“Immunity works as a system and what [the researchers] have been able to show is that when one tweaks only a single component, it can lead to quite detrimental results,” said immunologist Bruce Walker, who directs the Ragon Institute but was not involved in the work.

Other news in life science:

The Scientist’s latest Genome Digest includes domestic ferret, Adélie and emperor penguins, a trio of crocodilians, and many more.

Ebola Update
Researchers gear up for efficacy trials of experimental Ebola vaccines in Africa.

IOM Urges Data Sharing
The Institute of Medicine says results from human clinical trials ought to be made available to independent researchers within 18 months.

BPA Disrupts Zebrafish Neurogenesis
Exposure to bisphenol A or its alternative, bisphenol S, reduces the generation of new neurons in the embryonic animal’s hypothalamus, according to a small study.

Shire Makes $5.2 Billion Buy
The Irish drugmaker moves on from its terminated sale to AbbVie to purchase New Jersey-based NPS Pharmaceuticals.

Roche Snags Tumor Tester for $1B
The pharmaceutical company bought a majority stake in Foundation Medicine, a firm that develops personalized cancer-medicine diagnostics.

23andMe Partners with Pfizer
The personal genomics company strikes yet another deal to glean biomedically relevant information from its user data.