Magazine article Science News

Does Leptin Trigger Puberty?

Magazine article Science News

Does Leptin Trigger Puberty?

Article excerpt

A recently discovered hormone may provide the connection between the slightly delayed puberty experienced by many lean girl ballet dancers and the early puberty that often hits obese girls. A 30-year-old hypothesis argues that a girl must develop a critical abundance of fat, which stores energy, before her body can mature into that of a fertile woman.

The marker defining this critical abundance may be leptin. This hormone, which is secreted by fat cells, has earned fame as a possible antiobesity drug (SN: 7/29/95, p. 68). Drawing on a study of young female mice injected with the hormone, a research group proposes that leptin helps trigger the onset of puberty in these animals. "It could be one of several signals or the one that initiates the cascade," says Farid F. Chehab of the University of California, San Francisco.

Chehab and his UCSF colleagues have been studying leptin since the powerful hormone's discovery in 1994. …

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