Endocrine Abstracts (2012) 28 SE1.2

It's time to identify the hormone that controls body fat content

G Hervey


Leeds, United Kingdom.


This story began shortly before my time. My involvement came about through wartime work for the Navy on survival at sea, and an eccentric professor. In 1942 Hetherington & Ranson in the USA found that lesions in the ventromedial nuclei of the hypothalamus in rats cause obesity. The suggestion that a hormone was involved came from my Ph.D. project, published in the Journal of Physiology as a Communication in 1957 and a full paper in 1959. In a number of rats in parabiotic pairs (i.e. artificial ‘Siamese twins’), which permanently exchange blood, I made ventromedial hypothalamic lesions in one rat. Surprisingly, their partners became very thin, evidently from ceasing to eat. Subsequently my colleagues and I and others have demonstrated that the severe reduction of feeding and loss of body fat in parabiotic partners of obese rats occur after different ways of inducing obesity: electrical stimulation of the lateral hypothalamus; offering the rats foods they find particularly tasty; the use of congenitally obese Zucker rats; and over-feeding by stomach tube. In our last experiment we used graded levels of tube-feeding and were able to demonstrate a linear relationship between the body fat content of rats made obese by over-feeding, and the diminished fat content in their free-feeding partners. This, I believe, is good evidence for a feedback control system, which maintains approximate energy balance by stabilising fat content. The relationship gives a measure of the control system's ‘gain'. I have never been in a position to identify the agent, demonstrably blood-borne and presumably generated by fat, that the hypothalamus detects. Latterly I could not get grant support for a co-worker, and of course had teaching and departmental commitments. But surely, particularly at present, there is an opportunity here.

Declaration of interest: There is no conflict of interest that could be perceived as prejudicing the impartiality of the research reported.

Funding: No specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sector.

Article tools

My recent searches

No recent searches.