OBESITY and related conditions, such as diabetes, can be treated by converting white fat into brown fat, according to results of a study led by researchers from the Karolinska Institutet, Solna, Sweden. During experiments on mice, the team were able to identify a mechanism for the conversion, which led to a reduction in obesity and improved sensitivity to insulin.
White to Brown Fat Conversion
Brown adipose tissue generates heat by consuming energy, as opposed to white adipose tissue, which stores surplus energy and makes up most of the fat stores in humans; therefore, stimulating the conversion of white fat into brown has been viewed as a potential way of tackling obesity. In the study, the researchers blocked the receptor molecule for the VEGFR1 growth factor, which stimulated the formation of blood vessels in white adipose tissue, subsequently increasing the conversion rate of white fat to brown. Additionally, reduced obesity and improved sensitivity to insulin were observed. Blocking of the VEGFR1 receptor molecule was achieved via a drug in one group of mice, and by genetic modification in another.
It is believed that converting white fat to brown could now become a target for drug development. Prof Yihai Cao, Karolinska Institutet, commented: “Our discoveries can hopefully help us to develop new drugs for the treatment of obesity and diabetes.”
Obesity, which increases the risk of many serious diseases like cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes, is a major global health issue and burden on healthcare services. With a lack of effective drugs currently available for treating the condition, the findings of this study could provide a vital step in reducing the number of people with obesity and related metabolic diseases.
James Coker, Reporter
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