Contribution made by parabiosis to the understanding of energy balance regulation

Ruth B.S. Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Parabiosis is a chronic preparation that allows exchange of whole blood between two animals. It has been used extensively to test for involvement of circulating factors in feedback regulation of physiological systems. The total blood volume of each animal exchanges approximately ten times each day, therefore, factors that are rapidly cleared from the circulation do not reach equilibrium across the parabiotic union whereas those with a long half-life achieve a uniform concentration and bioactivity in both members of a pair. Involvement of a circulating factor in the regulation of energy balance was first demonstrated when one member of a pair of parabiosed rats became hyperphagic and obese following bilateral lesioning of the ventromedial hypothalamus. The non-lesioned partner stopped eating, lost a large amount of weight and appeared to be responding to a circulating "satiety" factor released by the obese rat. These results were confirmed using different techniques to induce obesity in one member of a pair. Studies with phenotypically similar ob/ob obese and db/db diabetic mice indicated that the obese mouse lacked a circulating signal that regulated energy balance, whereas the diabetic mouse appeared insensitive to such a signal. Positional cloning studies identified leptin as the circulating factor and subsequent parabiosis studies confirmed leptin's ability to exchange effectively between parabionts. These studies also suggest the presence of additional unidentified factors that influence body composition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1449-1455
Number of pages7
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Molecular Basis of Disease
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Humoral factors
  • Hypothalamus
  • Leptin
  • Obesity
  • Parabiotic disharmony

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Contribution made by parabiosis to the understanding of energy balance regulation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this