Did you Know the Skin can 'Talk' to the Liver?

First Posted: Dec 06, 2013 11:22 AM EST

Scientists have discovered a rather amazing thing. You see, the skin-the body's biggest organ-can actually talk to the liver. Now, you're probably wondering why this is important. Well, defects that are found in the skin may be compensated through the liver. (Don't worry. We'll explain more later.)  

Researchers from the University of Southern Denmark studied this phenomenon by observing laboratory mice with a specific fat-binding protein called acyl CoA. Some of the mice produced by researchers had a strange greasy fur and had difficulties being weaned from their mother. During the weaning period, they gained less weight and showed a failure to thrive. Analyses also showed that the mice accumulated fat in their liver at weaning.

"At first we thought that the fat accumulation in the liver was linked with the fat that the gene was missing in the liver of the knock-out mice. But this was ruled out by a series of studies, and we had to find another explanation," said Ditte Ness, a former student in the Mandrup research group, via a press release.

The researchers also took a look at the rumpled and weak knock-out mice. Their fur was greasy and they had a leaky skin that lost more water than normal mice. As they lost water, they also lost heat, which caused them to accumulate fat in their liver and made them weak when they were weaned from their mother, according to the study.

The researchers also made some mice that lacked the fat binding protein only in the skin. Similar to the full knockouts, these mice also had difficulties after weaning and accumulated fat in the liver. This showed that the lack of the fat-binding protein in the skin was sufficient to induce accumulation of fat in the liver.

Yet researchers took this a step further to see how the skin actually "talks" to the liver. They covered the mice with Vaseline to prevent water evaporation from the skin, which also stopped heat loss. As a result, they found that fat accumulation in the liver disappeared.

Soon after, they decided to cover the mice with liquid latex-which showed that fat accumulation in the liver again disappeared. 

"We believe that the leaking of water from the skin makes the mice feel cold, and that this leads to breaking down of fat in their adipose (fat) tissue. The broken down fat is then moved to the liver. The mice move energy from the tissues to the liver," researchers conclude, via the release.

More information regarding the study can be found via the journal Cell Reports

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