Recent study has uncovered the sensory neurons that are responsible for transmitting signals from fatty tissue to the brain. The research report that was recently published in the scientific magazine “Nature” (Nature) suggests, in this respect, that the brain is able to directly transmit messages to fat tissue and regulate the metabolic processes that occur within the body.
Dr. Li Ye, an associate professor of neurology at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, California, USA, who is also one of the authors of the paper, believes that the discovery of these neurons suggests that the brain “actively observes” fats rather than merely receiving messages in a receptive manner. Dr. Ye is also a member of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at the Scripps Research Institute.
“We only know that such connections are crucial to keeping healthy fat,” added the expert. “The team still does not know exactly what information the sensory neurons relay to the brain from adipose tissue.”
In collaboration with Dr. Ardem Pataputian, he came up with two innovative approaches to investigate the relationship that exists between sensory neurons and adipose tissue. The researchers began by applying a technique known as HYBRID, which made the tissue of the mouse translucent and gave them the ability to follow the courses of neurons as they passed through the fat tissue. The researchers utilized yet another innovative method known as ROOT in order to gain insight into the functioning of the neurons found in the adipose tissue. Because of this, it became feasible to selectively destroy specific sections of sensory neurons and then observe the effects of this action.
The researchers found through these experiments that nearly half of these neurons do not connect to the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is a network of nerves that the body uses for the “fight or flight” response. Instead, these neurons connect to the region of the brain where all sensory neurons originate, which is responsible for activating and sending signals to the rest of the nervous system.
The sympathetic nervous system started converting white fat cells into brown fat cells when communication with sensory neurons was disrupted. This allowed brown fat cells to burn calories through a process known as thermogenesis after the white fat cells were converted. As a result, the metabolic process that rids the body of fat happens more quickly.
Prior to the publication of this paper, the scientific community held the belief that fat nerves are primarily a part of the sympathetic nervous system and that their function is to cause the body to burn fat when it is under stress or when it is exercising. According to the findings of this study, the sympathetic nervous system may aid in fat burning by cooperating with two nerve signals that are diametrically opposed to one another.