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Putting the squeeze on fat cells
Date:11/22/2010

From fad diets to exercise programs, Americans continue to fight the battle of the bulge. Now they'll have help from recent Tel Aviv University research that has developed a new method to look at how fat cells -- which produce the fat in our bodies -- respond to mechanical loads.

This might be the key to understanding how to control the amount of fat produced by fat cells, the holy grail of weight loss researchers, says Prof. Amit Gefen of Tel Aviv University's Department of Biomedical Engineering. His research is driven by the theory that fat cells, like bone or muscle cells, are influenced by mechanical loads, defined as the amount of force or deformation placed on a particular area occupied by cells. By recreating the structure of fat cells using a newly-developed computer method, Prof. Gefen and his team of researchers can determine how much mechanical load can be tolerated by fat cells, and at what point the cells will begin to disintegrate.

The research, recently reported in the Journal of Biomechanics, has direct applications in weight loss programs, the treatment of bedsores and the management of chronic diabetes.

Bones in space, fat on the ground

According to Prof. Gefen, applying mechanical loads on tissues can affect many different cells within our bodies. For example, zero gravity affects the bone density of astronauts. When astronauts return home after a prolonged space flight, he explains, they are often confined to a wheelchair for a small period of time. The structures of their bones and muscles, which are determined by the cells that produce these structures, are weakened due to a lack of mechanical loads. This occurs because cells are deprived of "normal" mechanical stimulation, like walking.

Prof. Gefen believes that, much like bone or muscle cells, fat cells are also affected by mechanical loads. His new computer model takes slices of laser confocal microscopy images of cells and
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Contact: George Hunka
ghunka@aftau.org
212-742-9070
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Source:Eurekalert

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