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FOEDRC Continues To Lead In Studies Increasing Our Understanding of FGF21

DRC Director's Report, July 2017

As diabetes researchers work to identify potential new treatments for diabetes, colleagues at the FOEDRC continue to advance our understanding of how newly discovered hormones might work in ways that may lead to new ways to treat and prevent obesity and diabetes. One such hormone is fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21). Dr. Matthew Potthoff recently showed in mice that this hormone critically regulates the “sweet tooth” in mice. In a recent follow up study with collaborators from Denmark and published in the Journal Cell Metabolism,  it is now confirmed that FGF21 also regulates sweet preference in humans.  Now, Dr. Potthoff’s team has solved another piece of the puzzle by showing how and where FGF21 might act to regulate the body’s metabolism.

FGF21 is an important hormone in the body that regulates body weight and blood glucose levels.  Because of these important metabolic actions of FGF21, studies were performed to identify how FGF21 accomplishes its actions to identify new therapeutic targets to treat diabetes and obesity. The research lab of Dr. Matthew Potthoff, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center, recently published research in the prestigious journal Cell Metabolism which provided critical insights into the mechanism of FGF21 action. FGF21 mediates its effects by acting both on fat cells and also in the brain. In their study, Dr. Potthoff and colleagues reveal that FGF21 is able to acutely increase insulin sensitivity by communicating with specialized fat tissues, but FGF21 lowers body weight through actions on non-adipose tissues including the brain. Therefore, this work reveals that FGF21 mediates its effects on multiple tissues and provides new therapeutic opportunities for the treatment of diabetes and obesity.

In addition to being published in a highly recognized journal, the importance of this study is exemplified by its recognition in a research highlight in the journal Nature Reviews Endocrinology.

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