March 17, 2023

Altered Gene Expression Found in Obese Brains

Published in iScience, a team from the NeuroNetwork for Emerging Therapies used single-cell RNA sequencing to look at gene expression of microglia in the hippocampus that was inflamed due to obesity.  These results further position microglia as a potential therapy target to preserve brain health when obesity is present.

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The prevalence of obesity and its complications continues to rise in adults and youth worldwide. Obesity is associated with cognitive impairment and increases the risk of future dementia, but little is known about the underlying mechanisms that cause this.  A better understanding of how and why obesity leads to cognitive impairment and increased dementia risk will help to develop new and more effective treatment options and preventable strategies.

It is already known that obesity activates microglia, immune cells in the central nervous system, which leads to inflammation in the hippocampus, an area of the brain involved in memory and learning.  This positions microglia as a possible therapy target.  Published in iScience, a team from the NeuroNetwork for Emerging Therapies used novel single-cell RNA sequencing to look at gene expression in these hippocampal microglia cells in response to diet-induced obesity.  In doing so, researchers identified altered gene expression of inflammatory pathways in the obese pre-clinical models, which provides a foundation for future studies to further understand these mechanisms and identify new therapy targets and preventative strategies.

Junguk Hur, PhD

Junguk Hur, PhD, MS

University of North Dakota
Assistant Professor, Department of Biomedical Sciences
portrait of Dr. Eva Feldman

Eva Feldman, MD, PhD

James W. Albers Distinguished University Professor of Neurology
Russell N. DeJong Professor of Neurology
Director, NeuroNetwork for Emerging Therapies
Director, ALS Center of Excellence