Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Molecular Switch to Cause White Fat to Burn Energy

The use of lifestyle modification, diet, exercise, obesity drugs, and weight loss surgery makeup the leading methods for addressing weight loss. Brown fat, which has gained a lot of attention lately, could give us another tool for inducing with weight loss. Brown fat appears to burn energy rather than store it as does white fat. And some researcher have found a molecular switch which may allow white fat to burn energy. 

“The researchers, led by Harvard Professor Bruce Spiegelman, found that the protein TRPV4, a switch molecule, is highly expressed in white fat cells, which store excess calories and become engorged in obese individuals. Flipping a newly discovered molecular switch in white fat cells enabled mice to eat a high-calorie diet without becoming obese or developing the inflammation that causes insulin resistance…”

The researchers go on to say that the "role of TRPV4 as a mediator for both the thermogenic and pro-inflammatory programs in adipocytes, or fat cells, could offer an attractive target for treating obesity and related metabolic diseases.’

Since brown fat burns energy rather than store it the way white fat does, brown fat is more desirable than white fat.  Spiegelman, in a past article, reported that exercise can turn white fat into brown fat. He suggested that as mice exercise, their muscle cells release irisin, a newly discovered hormone.  And irisin converts white fat cells into brown cells. Spiegleman went on to say that humans may also convert white fat into brown fat in a similar manner.

Now, with his more recent research, Spiegleman indicates that white fat can act like the more desirable brown fat, with the right switch setting. With more research, we may know how to target the switching mechanism in white fat to make it burn energy. This could be a great tool for medical weight loss service providers.  Of course, more research is needed to translate the results from mice into treatments for humans. But the research has potential. 

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