Skip to content

Researchers successfully eliminate neurons outside the brain to trigger obesity.

Cell ablation is an important tool for selectively destroying one or multiple cells in a given organism to remove a disease such as cancer or to produce the desired response through the removal of specific genomic loci.  A common form of ablation uses the diphtheria toxin, however, diphtheria crosses the blood-brain barrier which limits its utility for ablating cells in the peripheral nervous system (PNS).  Now, a study from researchers at Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia develops a new genetic technique allowing the elimination of specific neurons in the PNS without affecting the same cells in the brain. The team states their novel technique opens new avenues for the study of many diseases related to the PNS and to other non-nerval cells outside the brain.  The opensource study is published in the journal Nature Communications.

Earlier studies from the lab recently discovered a set of peripheral catecholaminergic neurons innervating the adipose tissue and demonstrated the direct activation of these neurons burned fat. The current study investigates whether mice become obese in the absence of these peripheral neurons, without affecting similar neurons in the brain.

The current study develops a chemically-modified diphtheria toxin, increasing the size of the molecule so it can’t traverse the blood-brain barrier or affect cells in the central nervous system.  This toxin only kills cells containing its receptor, which mice typically do not have, meaning it must be artificially introduced into specific cells.  Results show the successful elimination of neurons from the adipose tissue of mice, without affecting the brain.  The group states mice with or without these catecholaminergic peripheral neurons exhibit similar eating patterns, however, mice lacking these catecholaminergic peripheral neurons gained fat very quickly.

The team surmises their technique allows for the verification of neurons innervating the adipose tissue to maintain normal adiposity and overcomes possible side effects in the brain. For the future, the researchers state the global medical community can now perform genetic ablation outside the brain and study the function of many peripheral cells for obesity, as well as other diseases.

Source: Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia (IGC; Portugal)

Get Healthinnovations delivered to your inbox:

Healthinnovations View All

Michelle Petersen is the founder of Healthinnovations, having worked in the health and science industry for over 21 years, which includes tenure within the NHS and Oxford University. Healthinnovations is a publication that has reported on, influenced, and researched current and future innovations in health for the past decade.

Michelle has been picked up as an expert writer for Informa publisher’s Clinical Trials community, as well as being listed as a blog source by the world’s leading medical journals, including the acclaimed Nature-Springer journal series.

Healthinnovations is currently indexed by the trusted Altmetric and PlumX metrics systems, respectively, as a blog source for published research globally. Healthinnovations is also featured in the world-renowned BioPortfolio,, the life science, pharmaceutical and healthcare portal.

Most recently the Texas A&M University covered The Top 10 Healthinnovations series on their site with distinguished Professor Stephen Maren calling the inclusion of himself and his team on the list a reflection of “the hard work and dedication of my students and trainees”.

Michelle Petersen’s copy was used in the highly successful marketing campaign for the mega-hit film ‘Jumanji: The Next Level, starring Jack Black, Karen Gilian, Kevin Hart and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. Michelle Petersen’s copywriting was part of the film’s coverage by the Republic TV network. Republic TV is the most-watched English language TV channel in India since its inception in 2017.

An avid campaigner in the fight against child sex abuse and trafficking, Michelle is a passionate humanist striving for a better quality of life for all humans by helping to provide traction for new technologies and techniques within healthcare.

One thought on “Researchers successfully eliminate neurons outside the brain to trigger obesity. Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Translate »