Obesity is characterized by a chronic and low-grade inflammation in tissues including the hypothalamus. Hypothalamic inflammation is considered an early and determining factor for the onset of obesity, a factor that occurs even before body weight gain. Within the hypothalamus, microglia and astrocytes produce cytokines that drive inflammatory responses. Astrocytes are directly affected by nutrient excess and might play a unique role in promoting hypothalamic inflammatory responses in obesity. This article reviews evidence supporting the role of hypothalamic astrocytes in obesity, and suggests a new approach for neuroendocrine research designed to reveal pathogenesis and develop novel treatment strategies against obesity.
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