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growth differentiation, factor 15, obesity, cardiovascular diseases


This is a literature review of cytokine growth differentiation factor 15 (GDF15), completed using PubMed to search for data and information. Obesity is a growing concern in the healthcare field, as more adults fall into the category every year. Since 1975, worldwide obesity has tripled. The disease is defined in adults as having a body mass index (BMI) greater than or equal to 30 kg/m2. It puts people at a high risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and some cancers. The stress responsive GDF15 has been studied as a possible therapeutic agent for obesity and associated cardiovascular diseases. In addition, it is a potential biomarker for several diseases. Also known as macrophage inhibitory cytokine 1 (MIC-1) or NSAID activated gene (NAG-1), this member of the transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β) family plays a role in regulating food intake and energy homeostasis. Using GDF15 to decrease appetite, increase metabolism, and reduce body weight could diminish the risks of obesity. Targeting GDF15 and its receptor could be a novel way to obtain body weight homeostasis by either up- or down-regulating the complex. The complex is constructed of GDF15 and its newly identified receptor glial-cell-line-derived neurotrophic factor receptor alpha-like (GFRAL), which is expressed in the area postrema (AP) and nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS). Together they recruit tyrosine kinase receptor ret (RET) to activate the complex, decreasing appetite and body weight. In addition to body weight, higher GDF15 concentration is related to other various diseases and disorders, such as type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, and cancer. Using GDF15 as a biomarker could improve diagnoses and predict complications. Future exploration of GDF15 would improve our understanding of its relation to cardiovascular disease, cancer, and kidney disease.

First Advisor

Hong Zhen

Research Area

Basic Biomedical Sciences