The cytokine diet: The next fad in weight loss?

Research presented at International Congress of Neuroendocrinology in Pittsburgh June 19–22

PITTSBURGH – Might we be able to turn our immune system against another kind of foe besides infections and viruses? How about fat? Researchers from the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) at the Pasteur Institute and the University of Lille, France, have evidence suggesting the possibility.

The cytokine interleukin-7 (IL-7), an element of the immune system that is critical for maintaining the proper store of immune cells, also prevents obesity-prone mice from getting fat, the researchers report at the 6th International Congress of Neuroendocrinology (ICN 2006) in Pittsburgh June 19–22 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

The researchers used a common mouse model for obesity that involves inducing lesions in the hypothalamus--a part of the brain that regulates appetite--using a common food additive, monosodium glutamate (MSG). As expected, these mice packed on extra ounces--up to 28 percent of their normal body weight. Another set of mice was injected with a single infusion of IL-7 after being given MSG. Interestingly, these mice neither developed lesions nor did they gain weight. According to doctoral student Laurence Macia and co-authors, the results indicate for the first time that IL-7 interacts with the hypothalamus, and moreover, this interaction is related to the brain's regulation of appetite. Perhaps the immune and neuroendocrine systems are more closely linked than previously thought, they conclude.

Held in a different part of the world every four years under the auspices of the International Neuroendocrine Federation, this year's congress--Bridging Neuroscience and Endocrinology--is being sponsored by the American Neuroendocrine Society and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. The first full day of the program, June 20, is being held in conjunction with the 10th Annual Meeting of the Society for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology.

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Formerly the International Society of Neuroendocrinology, the International Neuroendocrine Federation consists of six member societies and seven regional groups, representing all parts of the world. The federation's president is John A. Russell, MBChB, Ph.D., chair of neuroendocrinology, University of Edinburgh. The chair of the ICN 2006 scientific program is Iain J. Clarke, Ph.D., professorial fellow in the department of physiology at Monash University in Australia. Tony Plant, Ph.D., professor of cell biology and physiology and director of the Center for Research in Reproductive Physiology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, is chair of the local organizing committee.

NOTE TO EDITORS:

Interviews with the researchers can be arranged by calling the press room at (412) 325-6080 during press room hours, which are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday, June 20 through Thursday, June 22. During other times, please call the UPMC News Bureau at (412) 647-3555 or Lisa Rossi at (412) 916-3315 (cell). More information about the meeting and the schedule of briefings, which reporters may participate in via conference call, is at http://newsbureau.upmc.com/ICN2006.


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