To demonstrate how brite fat cells are formed the researchers in the laboratory of Christian Wolfrum, a professor at the Institute of Food, Nutrition and Health, generated mice that allowed them to genetically label specific fat cells. These animals were kept in a changing environment: starting at 8C for a week and for several weeks afterwards at normal room temperature. During the cold exposure, the mice formed brown adipocytes in their white fat depots a process called "britening". After warm adaptation the fat tissue turned white again. Using the genetic markers the scientists concluded from these experiments that white fat cells can convert into brown fat cells and vice versa. As humans have the same type of cells as mice it is likely that the same process occurs in humans upon cold stimulation.
Treatments against obesity
"To develop new treatment strategies we need to find ways to convert white into brown adipocytes", says Wolfrum. Most of the research has focused on identifying the precursor cells for brown fat cells, an approach that may be insufficient. Future work will address the question of how to manipulate this interconversion process either by pharmacological or by nutritional means.
This approach would represent a novel strategy. "Current anti-obesity therapies target the energy intake side of the equation by controlling appetite and the uptake of nutrients", says Wolfrum. The pharmacological treatments that are available are not very efficient and usually are associated with side effects. In contrast, this novel approach to treat obesity would target the energy expenditure side of the equation by promoting brown fat formation.
|Contact: Christian Wolfrum|