TUESDAY, March 7, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Using a nerve protection and growth factor called ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) to mimic the activity of the brain hormone leptin, Johns Hopkins researchers were able to dramatically reduce enlarged hearts in obese mice.
Leptin, which is generated by fat cells, signals the brain that it's time to stop eating. An inability to use leptin made naturally in the body is associated with obesity in many people, the researchers noted. Enlarged hearts can lead to heart failure and death.
In this study, the Hopkins team injected CNTF into obese mice that were either deficient or resistant to leptin and had cardiac hypertrophy -- a serious thickening of the heart. After receiving CNTF, the thickened heart walls in the mice were reduced by as much as a third and the overall size of the left ventricle, the main pumping chamber, was reduced by as much as 41 percent, the researchers said.
The study appears in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"These findings suggest that there's a novel brain-signaling pathway in obesity-related heart failure and have therapeutic implications for patients with some forms of obesity-related cardiovascular disease," senior author Dr. Joshua M. Hare, medical director of the heart failure and cardiac transplantation programs at Hopkins, said in a prepared statement.
"We knew that leptin supplements wouldn't address obesity-linked heart disease, but reasoned that CNTF might be a way to get around leptin resistance by activating a related signaling pathway with similar effects on body weight and metabolism," Hare said.
During the next phase of research, he and his colleagues plan to test CNTF in other animal models of hypertrophy not related to obesity.
The American Heart Association has more about enlarged heart.