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Scripps Research scientists awarded $2.35 million to study new obesity treatment
Date:12/7/2010

cancers. Currently, there are no generally effective medical therapies to treat obesity, and efforts so far have been limited to education extolling diet and exercise and in extreme cases surgery.

"This type of grant, the Director's Opportunity grant, is aimed at large and critically important projects that have the potential to impact clinical care and public health," Griffin said. "Our joint project will take the discoveries and insight in Bruce's laboratory, develop assays for these novel targets, and look to develop compounds that stimulate white fat to burn calories in the intense way that brown fat does."

Brown fat, which has been identified in healthy humans, serves as a kind of molecular mammalian furnace, generating heat by burning large numbers of calories in creatures like newborn babies (and rodents) that lack the ability to shiver effectively to keep warm. The fat gets its name because it is loaded with mitochondria, the cell's energy plant, which contains iron and gives the fat its red-brown tint. Mitochondria use nutrients to produce energy for the cell.

The grant, Griffin said, is built on several key discoveries the team has made over the last few years. One is the initial discovery of PRDM16, a protein capable of determining whether certain types of immature cells will develop into brown fat cells. The protein works in tandem with another protein and together they act as the catalyst to the development of brown fat in different cell types. One aim of the funded research program will be to investigate regulation of whole body energy homeostasis and to isolate and characterize a type of brown fat cell in white fat tissues with substantial heat-producing capacity. This will be combined with the synthesis and evaluation of small molecules that can regulate PRDM16's activity.

A second discovery by the research team, which was published earlier this year in the journal Nature, was a novel signaling pathway trigged
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Contact: Mika Ono
mikaono@scripps.edu
858-784-2052
Scripps Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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