Discovery could lead to ways to increase energy-burning in body, fight obesity
WEDNESDAY, July 29 (HealthDay News) -- Boston scientists have succeeded in making brown fat out of mouse and human cells, a feat that takes scientists a step closer to victory in the fight against obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Brown fat is "good" fat because it burns energy, acting as a furnace, to help regulate body temperature by generating heat. The more of this fat you have, the leaner you tend to be.
"Brown fat is necessary for thermogenesis [heat production], to prevent shivering. It basically burns off calories," explained Dr. Jacob Warman, chief of endocrinology at The Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York City. "It's healthy. It keeps your weight down. Thinner people have larger amounts of brown fat."
White fat, on the other hand, stores calories and contributes to obesity.
"This could be very important research if it pans out," said Dr. Spyros Mezitis, an endocrinologist with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "It could provide a lot of opportunities for new therapeutics. We don't have any drugs that really work well to control weight gain."
The paper appears online July 29 in the journal Nature.
A 2007 paper, also published in Nature by the same team, discovered that the protein PRDM16 could transform immature cells into brown fat.
Earlier this year, three separate groups of scientists on two continents independently verified that adult humans possess this slimming form of fat, which was thought only to be present in children and rodents.
"Several papers found that humans have a lot of brown fat, contrary to previous reports," said study senior author Dr. Bruce Spiegelman, a professor of cell biology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
Now the team reports that PRDM16 has a collaborator, the protein C/EBP-beta. The two work together to propel var
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