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Study finds brain process that triggers puberty

Category: Hormones and Metabolism

Researchers may be a step closer to developing a new treatment for individuals with delayed puberty who have received abnormal leptin test results. A team of researchers from the UT Southwest Medical Center have identified the site in the brain where the hormone triggers the onset of puberty.

Individuals only enter puberty after their body has stored up enough fat to support reproduction. The hormone leptin plays an important role in regulating the storing of fat. However, in some individuals, this process goes wrong, and puberty is delayed.

The research team believes that their discovery could lead to the development of treatments that correct this process. They found that leptin kick starts the puberty process by acting on an area of the hypocalamus called the ventral premmillary nucleus, or PMV.

"We found that the PMV is a key site of leptin action on puberty," said Carol Elias, who led the study. "This may not be the only site, considering the importance of the reproductive function for species survival, but the role played by PMV neurons has not been recognized before."

The most immediate application of the findings could be in the area of childhood obesity. The condition is causing widespread early-onset of puberty in girls. Mediating the process through this leptin receptor may help. 

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