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Dr Francesc Villarroya (Photo: UB).

Researchers describe a new brain signalling pathway that regulates body weight

An article published in the journal Cell Metabolism –which counts with the participation of the researchers Francesc Villarroya and Joan Villarroya, from the Faculty of Biology and the Institute of Biomedicine of the University of Barcelona (IBUB) at PCB– describes for the first timethe molecular mechanism that regulates the lipid metabolism in the liver through a hypothalamus-coordinated pathway in the brain. Study results open new horizons to the therapy design to treat obesity and other metabolic diseases.


Thyroid hormones act in the hypothalamus modulating several molecular pathways, the most important being regulated by AMPK protein. In this study, the scientific team stated that thyroid hormones are capable of inhibiting the function of the AMPK protein in a specific population of hypothalamic neurons, something which ends up activating two regulating molecular pathways of the brown fat and liver function. 

According to Professor Francesc Villarroya, member of the Physiopathology of Obesity and Nutrition Networking Biomedical Research Center (CIBERobn) of the Institute of Health Carlos III, “It’s been a while we knew thyroid hormones activated the synthesis of fat in the liver. This was quite hard to understand since thyroid hormones generally tend to ‘burn’ metabolic substratum instead of increasing its synthesis. The new study states for the first time that this fat synthesis –destined to be ‘burned’ in the brown adipose tissue- results from an action coordinated in the hypothalamus, an area of the brain that regulates the energy of the body.


►More information: UB website [+]

►Reference article: Martínez-Sánchez et al. “Hypothalamic AMPK-ER Stress-JNK1 Axis Mediates the Central Actions of Thyroid Hormones on Energy Balance“.  Cell Metabolism 26, 212–229 July 5, 2017. doi: