Friday, 26 April 2013

Got fat? Here's some news that won't weigh you down.

It’s April, which means swimsuit season is just around the corner. So this week we’re addressing the spare tire that roughly one third of Americans are lugging around their waistline. While obesity is a serious global issue, there is some hope on the horizon. Scientists have recently figured out how we develop brown fat (the good fat), how white fat (the bad fat) can be transformed into brown fat, and the protein responsible for stimulating brown fat to burn calories.

Brown is in!
Humans have two different types of adipose tissue: brown and white. As it is with rice and bread, brown is better (in the health sense).  Brown adipose tissue, which burns fats to generate heat (thermogenesis), is composed of numerous small lipid droplets, whereas its white counterpart contains just a single lipid droplet and functions to store fat.

Brown fat is most abundant in newborn infants to keep them warm. We lose most of it when we become adults because our increased musculature, subcutaneous fat, mobility, and body surface area allows us to more adequately stay warm on our own. Bummer, right? Well that’s where science steps in.

Combating obesity, one step at a time.
We need energy to function, which is why mammals developed specialized fat cells to store energy in the form of intra-cellular fat (lipid droplets). These droplets expand as they store excess calories, resulting in that pesky spare tyre.

But what about getting rid of the unwanted blubber? The logical solution is diet and exercise, but a little extra help at the cellular level never hurts, especially when there’s the risk of health problems associated with weight gain.

Scientists at the Stowers Institute of Medical Research identified two proteins, FATP1 and DGAT2, which are required for the expansion of lipid droplets. The study found that the two proteins work together to increase the size of lipid droplets, thus allowing cells to store more energy. While further research is needed to understand the implications of manipulating either protein, the findings shed light on the possibility that some health related problems stemming from obesity may result when lipid droplets can’t expand anymore. Another study from scientists at Yale revealed that only some lipid droplets expand, as opposed to all of them. Increased understanding of the mechanisms of energy storage will allow for new approaches to treating obesity.

Making the switch.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could transform our white fat into brown fat? Well, scientists are already making great strides toward determining the genes that regulate the development of these two types of adipose tissue. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that the protein Ebf2, which is prevalent in brown fat, marks the genes which transform precursor cells into brown fat. They determined through studies conducted on mice that high levels of this protein equated to an increased presence of brown fat and that mice with more brown fat were leaner and healthier.

Does this mean we can expect a quick fix for weight related woes? Well, not exactly, but it does bode well for the development of novel treatments for obesity related health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver disease, musculoskeletal disorders, etc.  So don’t ditch your diet and exercise regime just yet!

Caltag Medsystems is the exclusive UK distributor for ScienCell products. For further information on the ScienCell product range, please visit or contact Caltag Medsystems by email. All UK prices can be found on

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