Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Brown Fat Transplants to Treat Obesity

Bariatric surgery is an important weight loss option, today. Bariatric surgery is usually defined as surgery that restricts the amount of food eaten (restrictive), or surgery that reduces the absorption of calories (malabsorptive), or surgery that is both restrictive and malabsorptive. However, if one uses a more broad definition indicating that bariatric surgery is any surgery that is done to cause weight loss, other forms of surgery could be included in the definition of bariatric surgery. Therefore, brown fat transplants could be viewed as a potential form of bariatric surgery.

Brown fat is burned in the body rather than stored the way white is. Therefore, brown fat is preferable to white fat, for the most part. Studies to understand how brown fat is created in an organism are ongoing. And at least one study demonstrates that we may be able to produce brown fat from white fat.

According to a recent article, Bruce Spiegelman, professor of cell biology at Harvard, led research that shows that at least in mice, exercise can cause white fat to be converted to brown fat. Based on Spiegelman’s research, as mice exercise, their muscle cells release a hormone that the researchers named irisin. After its release, Irisin converts white fat cells into brown ones. And those brown fat cells burn extra calories. Spiegelman believes that the ability to convert white fat into brown fat may also exist in the humans.

A research group at the University of California is also investigating brown fat. The group found that in mice, TZDs (thiazolidinediones, such as Actos and Avandia) interacted with the hormone, PRDM16, to induce the conversion of white fat into brown fat.

In the brown fat transplant, “Mice given brown fat transplants lose weight and avoid the kinds of metabolic changes that lead to type 2 diabetes, even on high-fat diets…” If this type of “bariatric surgery” proves viable in humans as a weight loss method, it could be an important tool in the arsenal of surgical weight loss tools. Further, weight loss surgical centers may be able to eventually improve their bariatric surgical services.

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