BOSTON September 20, 2011 Researchers at the Joslin Diabetes Center have identified for the first time two molecular pathways that are critical to activating a type of "good" fat found in the body, a discovery that could play an important role in the fight against obesity and diabetes.
The fat, called brown fat, actually burns energy rather than storing it, which the more common white fat does.
The study, published in the October issue of Endocrinology, sought to learn more about how to get brown fat cells to grow. It identified two molecular pathways that lead to a protein called necdin that blocks brown fat growth.
With this information, researchers can look for ways to modify the steps along the pathways, either to stimulate another protein, called CREB, which shuts down necdin, or block a different protein called FoxO1, located along the second pathway, which stimulates necdin. The study showed for the first time that the two proteins can bind directly to the necdin gene.
"This is a very important piece of the puzzle," said Aaron Cypess, MD, PhD an assistant investigator and staff physician at Joslin and lead author of the paper. "It provides new opportunities. The point is that we have got to learn how to grow these brown fat cells. There's a lot of missing information. We filled in some of the important missing pieces."
Based on previous research, including a 2005 paper by Yu-Hua Tseng, Ph.D., a Joslin investigator who also is senior author of today's paper, there was some evidence that the two pathways were important to the process of brown fat growth.
In today's study, the researchers conducted tests in vitro on different cell lines derived from brown fat taken from mice. "We used different drugs to stimulate or block the signaling pathways that we thought were important," Dr. Cypess said. "The result was that we defined the two pathways. We found what goes to what to cause something t
|Contact: Jeffrey Bright|
Joslin Diabetes Center