Leptin, a product of the ob gene, is a pleiotropic signal implicated in regulation of multiple physiological functions in the periphery and centrally, including hypothalamic integration of energy homeostasis. Recessive mutations of ob gene result in early onset of hyperphagia, morbid obesity, metabolic disorders, early mortality and shortened life-span. Intracerebroventricular injection of recombinant adeno-associated virus vector (rAAV) encoding the leptin gene in adult obese ob/ob mice enhanced leptin transgene expression only in the hypothalamus, normalized food intake, body weight and more than doubled the life-span as compared to control cohorts and extended it to near that of normal wild type mice. These life-extending benefits were associated with drastic reductions in visceral fat, and blood glucose and insulin levels, but elevated ghrelin levels, the anti-aging biomarkers. Thus, bioavailability of leptin transduced by ectopic gene in the hypothalamus alone is both necessary and sufficient to normalize life-span. Evidently, site-specific ectopic gene expression with rAAV is durable and safe for alleviating neural disorders that stem from missing or functional disruption of a single gene.