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Gene Ther. 2011 Apr;18(4):319-25. doi: 10.1038/gt.2010.164. Epub 2011 Jan 6.

Pivotal role of leptin-hypothalamus signaling in the etiology of diabetes uncovered by gene therapy: a new therapeutic intervention?

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  • 1Department of Neuroscience, McKnight Brain Institute, College of Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32610-0244, USA.


The incidence of diabetes mellitus has soared to epidemic proportion worldwide. The debilitating chronic hyperglycemia is caused by either lack of insulin as in diabetes type 1 or its ineffectiveness as in diabetes type 2. Frequent replacement of insulin with or without insulin analogs for optimum glycemic control are the conventional cumbersome therapies. Recent application of leptin gene transfer technology has uncovered the participation of adipocytes-derived leptin-dependent hypothalamic neural signaling in glucose homeostasis and demonstrated that a breakdown in this communication due to leptin insufficiency in the hypothalamus underlies the etiology of chronic hyperglycemia. Reinstatement of central leptin sufficiency by hyperleptinemia produced either by intravenous leptin infusion or a single systemic injection of recombinant adenovirus vector encoding leptin gene suppressed hyperglycemia and evoked euglycemia only transiently in rodent models of diabetes type 1. In contrast, stable restoration of leptin sufficiency, solely in the hypothalamus, with biologically active leptin transduced by an intracerebroventicular injection of recombinant adeno-associated virus vector encoding leptin gene (rAAV-lep) abolished hyperglycemia and imposed euglycemia through the extended duration of experiment by stimulating glucose disposal in the periphery in models of diabetes type 1. Further, similar hypothalamic leptin transgene expression abrogated chronic hyperglycemia and hyperinsulinemia, the predisposing risk factors of the age and environmentally acquired diabetes type 2, and instituted euglycemia by independently activating relays that stimulate glucose metabolism and repress hyperinsulinemia and improve insulin sensitivity in the periphery. Consequently, this durable antidiabetic efficacy of one time rAAV-lep neurotherapy offers a potential novel substitute for insulin therapy following preclinical trials in subhuman primates and humans.

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