A “beige” fat cell which burns energy and is known to be able to convert unhealthy white fat into brown fat has been isolated by researchers.
The discovery was made by a team at the University of California, San Francisco, who now hope this fat cell could play an important role in fighting obesity. This is the first time that the genetic markers of beige fat cells have been identified.
Obesity is a leading cause of type 2 diabetes, with researchers hoping that new beige fat could lead to the engineering of fat cells to tackle obesity.
Lead author Shingo Kajimura, PhD explained that before their research it was unknown if brown fat, which produces heat and burns energy in adults and protects babies from cold, could be converted from white fat.
If brown fat could be converted, or recruited from beige fat – which forms within white fat cells – it could subsequently respond to cold and additional stressors.
Kajimura’s team isolated single brown fat cells from two adults and cloned them, evaluating that they were able to successfully isolate the converted brown fat.
Kajimura said: “This finding brings us another step closer to the goal of our laboratory, which is engineering fat cells to fight obesity.”
The research team are now aiming to create drugs which can turn white fat into brown fat with the help of certain molecular activity found in the body.

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