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Researchers Turn White Fat to Energy-Burning Brown Fat in Mice

TUESDAY Dec. 21, 2010 -- Certain cells in white fat can be changed into energy-burning brown fat, according to an animal study that might one day lead to new treatments for obesity, researchers report.

In tests on mice, a team at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston found that exposure to a protein called BMP-7 caused progenitor cells in subcutaneous (just beneath the skin) white fat tissue and skeletal muscle to turn into brown fat cells.

Previous research by the same team found that BMP-7 plays a key role in brown fat development.

In this new study, the conversion of the progenitor cells in the subcutaneous white fat tissue was increased when they were exposed to both BMP-7 and the diabetes drug rosiglitazone.

"This finding opens up a whole new avenue for researchers interested in designing molecules that induce endogenous progenitor cells to differentiate into mature brown fat cells," senior author Yu-Hua Tseng, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said in a news release from the Joslin Diabetes Center.

"It's particularly exciting because we found that some of these cells are located in subcutaneous white fat, which could be a very accessible source for them," Tseng added.

The study is published in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

More information

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Posted: December 2010


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