Brown fat programme could signal new treatment options in obesity and type 2 diabetes

US researchers believe a program that converts white fat to brown fat could be pivotal in providing new treatments for obesity and type 2 diabetes.
This “browning program” was discovered by scientists from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
By converting energy-hoarding white fat cells into fat-burning brown fat cells, the body can be protected from obesity and type 2 diabetes.
“It’s conceivable that one would be able to target this pathway with a drug, to push white fat to become brown fat and thereby treat obesity,” said lead author Dr Zoltan P. Arany, PhD, whose findings have been published online ahead of print in Genes and Development.
The browning of white fat cells is normally suppressed by a series of proteins, the researchers discovered, but when they deleted a protein called FLCN in the white fat cells of mice, it led to the activation of the set of genes needed for the browning program.
When FLCN was deleted, the white fat cells became visibly browner. Additionally their cellular structures altered to accommodate more mitochondria – the small oxygen reactions that supply chemical energy and convert energy to heat in brown fat.
Arany and colleagues believe they can reproduce this browning effect using a drug that boosts the activity of a cellular metabolism called PGC-1β.
“In principle, a drug that boosts the activity of PGC-1β or some of its target genes might serve as a therapeutic activator of the browning program to curb obesity and treat or prevent diabetes,” said Arany.
Earlier this year, University of Tennessee researchers discovered in a separate study that a chemical called Beta-LGND2 reduced obesity and metabolic diseases in mice through turning white fat into brown fat.

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