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Cell Tissue Res. 2007 Jan;327(1):133-41. Epub 2006 Sep 22.

Injections of leptin into rat ventromedial hypothalamus increase adipocyte apoptosis in peripheral fat and in bone marrow.

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  • 1Department of Cellular Biology and Anatomy, Medical College of Georgia, Laney Walker Blvd. CB2915, Augusta, GA 30912, USA.


The accumulation of fat cells (adipocytes) in bone marrow is now thought to be a factor contributing to age-related bone loss. Women with osteoporosis have higher numbers of marrow adipocytes than women with healthy bone, and bone formation rate is inversely correlated with adipocyte number in bone tissue biopsies from both men and women. Adipogenic differentiation of bone marrow stromal cells increases with age, but the factors regulating populations of mature adipocytes are not well understood. Leptin is thought to regulate adipose tissue mass via its receptors in the ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH). We have therefore tested the hypothesis that stimulation of leptin receptors in the VMH regulates adipocyte number in bone marrow. Results indicate that unilateral twice-daily injections of leptin into the rat VMH for only 4 or 5 days cause a significant reduction in the number of adipocytes in peripheral fat pads and bone marrow and indeed eliminate adipocytes almost entirely from bone marrow of the proximal tibia. Osteoblast surface is not affected with leptin treatment. Apoptosis assays performed on bone marrow samples from control and treated rats have revealed a significant increase in protein concentration of the apoptosis marker caspase-3 with leptin treatment. We conclude that stimulation of leptin receptors in the VMH significantly decreases the adipocyte population in bone marrow, primarily through apoptosis of marrow adipocytes. Elimination of marrow adipocytes via this central pathway may represent a useful strategy for the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis.

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