Biologists discover key neurons for thermoregulation in mammals

(ORDO NEWS) — Japanese scientists have found a group of neurons in the hypothalamus, which plays a key role in the regulation of body temperature in mammals.

The discovery may be useful for the development of technologies for artificial regulation of body temperature for the treatment of heat stroke, hypothermia and even obesity.

Body temperature in humans and other mammals is maintained at a certain level, optimal for the functioning of the body.

If it is rejected, the normal functioning of the body is disrupted, which can lead to overheating or hypothermia.

However, these conditions, even very severe ones, could be easily cured if scientists found the key to artificial control of body temperature.

The center of temperature regulation in the brain is located in the preoptic region of the hypothalamus, which also controls other vital body functions.

For example, when the preoptic area receives signals from prostaglandin E, which is produced in response to infections, the preoptic area “gives the command” to increase body temperature.

However, until now it remained unknown which neurons in the preoptic region perform this function. Therefore, scientists from Nagoya University (Japan) conducted a study on rats.

The answer to the question lay in the EP3 neurons in the preoptic region they appear to play a key role in regulating body temperature by sending inhibitory signals to neurons elsewhere in the hypothalamus to control sympathetic responses.

First of all, the scientists studied the activity of EP3 neurons at different ambient temperatures. The comfortable temperature for rats is around 28 degrees Celsius.

The rats were exposed to low (four degrees Celsius), room (24 degrees) and high (36 degrees) temperatures for two hours. As the results showed, only high temperature activated EP3 neurons.

After that, the authors traced where the nerve fibers of EP3 neurons lead to understand where they transmit their signals.

It turned out that their processes connected to various areas of the brain, including the dorsomedial hypothalamus (DMH), which activates the sympathetic nervous system that regulates the stress response.

The researchers also found that EP3 neurons use gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), the main inhibitory neurotransmitter, to signal.

To further explore the role of EP3 neurons, scientists artificially altered their activity using chemogenetics.

Activation of neurons leads to a decrease in body temperature, and suppression of their activity leads to an increase.

According to the authors of the article, EP3 neurons can precisely regulate signal strength to adjust body temperature. So, in hot conditions, the signals are amplified to suppress sympathetic activity.

This results in increased blood flow to the skin to facilitate heat radiation. In a cold environment, signals are attenuated to activate sympathetic pathways that promote heat production to prevent hypothermia.

The results of the study may pave the way for the development of technology for artificial regulation of body temperature, which can be used to treat heat stroke and hypothermia.

In addition, the technology may be useful in the treatment of obesity, as keeping the body temperature slightly above normal will help burn fat.


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