'Brown fat' discovery may help treat obesity

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London, July 30 (ANI): Researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have succeeded in making brown fat, a type of "good" fat that burns calories rather than store them, out of mouse and human cells.

The finding paves way for a novel approach to treat obesity and diabetes.

The research team led by Bruce Spiegelman, PhD, has found both parts of a molecular switch that normally causes some immature muscle cells in the embryo to become brown fat cells.

Using the switch, the team was able to manipulate it to force other types of cells to produce brown fat, known as Brown Adipose Tissue (BAT).

Then the team transplanted the engineered BATs (known as eBATs) into adult mice to boost their natural levels of brown fat.

Tests then showed that the brown fat transplants were burning caloric energy at a higher rate rather than energy that would have been stored as fat in white adipose tissue - or white fat.

Excess caloric energy in the diet is stored in white fat which can pile up in the body, particularly the thighs and abdomen. Accumulated fat in chubby people can cause inflammation in body organs and the circulatory system.

On the other hand, brown fat has evolved to protect animals from cold conditions and prevent obesity. Cells are equipped with a large supply of mitochondria, tiny organelles that use oxygen to burn sugar in order to generate heat.

Spiegelman said the results "give a lot more credence" to efforts to manipulate the brown fat as a potential means of treating obesity and type 2 diabetes.

One strategy would be to remove some tissue from the patient, add the two proteins that make up the switch - PRMD16 and C/EBP-beta - and return it to the patient where it would manufacture additional brown fat.

Another more conventional possibility however would be to administer a drug to the patient that would produce extra brown fat.

"Since brown fat cells have very high capacity to dissipate excess energy and counteract obesity, eBAT has a very high potential for treating obesity," said Shingo Kajimura, PhD, lead author of the paper which has been published on Nature website. (ANI)

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