Gene Expression in the Hypothalamus Potentially Associated With Health and Metabolism

An embryonic stem cell model allowed investigators to study the genetic architecture first in hypothalamic progenitor cells, prior to their full development, and then nucleus-like hypothalamic neurons.

Investigators used an embryonic stem cell model to study gene expression during development of the hypothalamus, which could be associated with puberty, body mass index, height, bipolar disorder, sleep, major depressive disorder, and more, results of a new study by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) show.

“The data set we derived from this study allows other researchers to determine which diseases or conditions are relevant when doing a genetic workup of the patient,” Struan Grant, PhD, director of the center for spatial and functional genomics at CHOP said in a statement. “As more information about the hypothalamus is known, that information can be queried against this data set and potentially identify therapeutic targets for multiple disorders.”

The model allowed investigators to study the genetic architecture first in hypothalamic progenitor cells, prior to their full development, and then nucleus-like hypothalamic neurons.

The hypothalamus contains several subtypes of neurons, and investigators were able to integrate the results from various genome-wide studies to implicate genes driving traits that are regulated in this part of the brain.

The results confirmed the role of the BDNF gene in influencing the body mass index and obesity risk.

Another gene, PER2, was implicated in sleep regulation.

The hypothalamus is a difficult region of the brain to study, so these findings could help physicians identify potential causes of dysfunctions for many important traits that regulated by that part of the brain.

The hypothalamus helps maintain health and stable metabolism, thus influencing appetite, puberty, reproductive timing, sleep cycles, and body temperature.

The findings were published in Nature Communications.

Reference

Researchers use model of hypothalamus to implicate genes associated with sleep, BMI, puberty, and more. EurekAlert. News release. November 19, 2021. Accessed November 19, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/935506