According to new findings, Leptin- the so-called obesity hormone may help patients in treating a rare disorder marked by a loss of fat tissue and other metabolic abnormalities.The study's author found that the results of this study lays the foundation for research into the role of leptin in common metabolic conditions such as type 2 diabetes.
Dr. Elif Oral and her colleagues found that a lab-engineered version of leptin, which is usually produced by fat cells, improved several metabolic problems in nine women with lipodystrophy. These patients had little or no fat tissue due to either a genetic defect or an abnormal immune system attack on the body's own tissue.
Along with low blood levels of leptin, the condition is typically marked by high levels of blood fats called triglycerides, resistance to the blood-sugar-regulating hormone insulin, and diabetes. Diabetes occurs when the body loses sensitivity to insulin and blood sugar levels rise out of control. Typically, this rare form of lipodystrophy is treated with a combination of insulin and other diabetes drugs, as well as cholesterol-lowering agents.
But her team found that 4 months of injections with the engineered leptin boosted patients' blood levels of the hormone, cut their triglycerides and improved their blood sugar levels. And during leptin treatment, the women were able to discontinue on their diabetes therapies. The treatment "really made a big impact on their quality of life," said Oral, who was with the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases in Bethesda, Maryland, at the time of the study.
According to the team, along with this success in improving the disorder, the study also indicates the importance of body fat and leptin levels in maintaining a normal metabolism, Specifically, adequate leptin levels appear necessary for normal insulin sensitivity.
This would be in addition to its already-recognized job in helping regulate appetite. Leptin has been called the obesity hormone--and has been mainly studied in this context--because leptin levels rise in proportion to body fat, and obese individuals have been thought to have leptin resistance.
Animal research has suggested that a lack of leptin may be involved in the development of insulin resistance, but this is the first evidence in humans that this may be the case. She said that future research should look into how leptin levels might factor into type 2 diabetes, the common form of diabetes that is closely linked to obesity and is preceded by the development of insulin resistance.
The study was funded by the US National Institutes of Health and the Thousand Oaks, California-based pharmaceutical company Amgen, which supplied the leptin product.