Hormone May Explain Origin Of Type 2 Diabetes In Children

The presence of the hormone leptin may hinder prenatal development, which could explain the origin of type 2 diabetes, according to researchers at The Saban Research Institute of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA).

Leptin - a hormone secreted by fat cells that plays a vital role in maintaining the body’s energy balance - could impede neuronal connections between the brain and pancreas during embryonic development. Because leptin helps regulate insulin secretion and blood glucose levels, researchers believe that dysregulation of the hormone during prenatal development could explain the connection to type 2 diabetes.

"We showed that exposure of the embryonic mouse brain to leptin during a key developmental period resulted in permanent alterations in the growth of neurons from the brainstem to the pancreas, resulting in long-term disturbances to the balance of insulin levels in the adult mouse," said Sebastien G. Bouret, PhD, researcher in the developmental neuroscience program at CHLA.

Brainstem and pancreas connectivity

For the study, researchers injected mice embryos with leptin during the middle period of gestation, and they claim the hormone permanently reduced the connection between the brainstem and pancreas. Researchers also believe these findings help to explain the origin of type 2 diabetes in children of obese mothers.

"This breakdown in communication from the brain to the pancreas resulted in impaired glucose regulation in the adult mouse," said Bouret. "This study reveals an unanticipated regulatory role for the leptin hormone known to be produced by fat cells. Because babies of obese moms have high levels of leptin, it might put them at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes and obesity."

Source: Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

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