LA JOLLA, CA New research by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute and collaborating institutions has identified a key regulator of fat cell development that may provide a target for obesity and diabetes drugs.
In a paper published in the latest issue of Cell Metabolism, the scientists describe a protein called TLE3 that acts as a dual switch to turn on signals that stimulate fat cell formation and turn off those that keep fat cells from developing. TLE3 works in partnership with a protein that is already the target of several diabetes drugs, but their use has been plagued by serious side effects.
"There is definitely a need for alternative drug targets," said Scripps Research Associate Professor Enrique Saez, who led the study with Professor Peter Tontonoz of Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). "Our goal is to understand how fat cells form so that we can develop better treatments for obesity and related disorders."
Fat: the Good and Bad
In today's culture, fat has a bad reputation but it's not all justified. Adipose (fat) tissue stores excess fatty substances, called lipids, obtained from the diet to prevent them from accumulating in other tissues, such as liver and muscle, where they would cause damage. Fat tissue also produces hormones that help control the balance of insulin in the blood and regulate energy production and consumption.
But in some conditions, such as in obesity, adipose tissue no longer functions as it should. "When we have too much fat, it tends to become dysfunctional," said Saez. "That is when you run into problems like insulin resistance and diabetes."
One way to combat such problems is to generate additional healthy fat cells and to improve the functioning of existing ones.
Making More Fat Cells
Like all cells in the body, fat cells, or adipocytes, arise from stem cells, which are induce
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Scripps Research Institute