Understanding "Good" Fat May Help Fight Obesity

Posted by Admin on May 10, 2010

A recent understanding of the origins of brown fat cells - the "good" kind of fat that burns energy and keeps us warm - may lead to the discovery of new treatments for obesity. Researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston said they used a single molecular switch to turn immature muscle cells into brown fat cells in the lab. This suggests that brown fat may be more akin to muscle cells than traditional white fat cells. Another team from the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston found a protein important for bone growth helped promote the development of fat tissues in mice. Both teams claim their new findings lend understanding about the origins of brown fat, which releases energy, in contrast to white fat, which only stores energy.

A person who is obese has copious amounts of white fat, and researchers think if they can coax the body into making more energy burning brown fat, then this may help obese people lose weight. Previously, the Dana Farber Cancer researchers found that a certain gene transcription factor was able to transform muscle cells into brown fat cells.

The hunt is now on for a drug that could chemically stimulate this gene transcription factor to produce more brown fat cells, which would shift the metabolism into fat-burning mode. The second research team from Joslin Diabetes Center found a protein known for inducing bone growth can also promote the development of brown fat cells.

The team found the mice that developed extra brown fat tissue gained less weight than other mice, suggesting a possible use for weight loss. Lead researcher Yu-Hua Tseng said in a statement, "We hope this study can be translated into applications to help treat or prevent obesity."


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