Shrinking certain structures found on stem cells could prevent them from turning into fat cells, according to new research.
The study, conducted by researchers at Queen Mary University of London, indicated that shrinking cilia, which are hair-like structures found on stem cells, stopped them transforming into fat cells. The findings could potentially improve treatment for obesity and various diseases triggered by inflammation, including type 2 diabetes.
When our bodies turn calories into fat, part of the process involves something called adipogenesis, in which stem cells turn into fat cells. Longer cilia, the researchers found, are linked to this process.
When the researchers prevented the cilia from growing – using stem cells from a human bone marrow – fewer fat cells were produced.
The research may contribute to improving treatment for a variety of conditions, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and cancer.
Melis Dalbay, co-author of the study, said: “This is the first time that is has been shown that subtle changes in primary cilia structure can influence the differentiation of stem cell into fat.
“Since primary cilia length can be influenced by various factors including pharmaceuticals, inflammation and even mechanical forces, this study provides new insight into the regulation of fat cell formation and obesity.”
The research will be used as the basis for the development of new treatments for obesity, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and cancer. The research could lead to new types of treatment, which focus on the regulation of cilia length.
Professor Martin Knight, lead author, said: “This research points towards a new type of treatment known as ‘cilia-therapy’ where manipulation of primary cilia may be used in future to treat a growing range of conditions including obesity, cancer, inflammation and arthritis.”

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