Researchers have successfully inhibited a protein that blocks the activation of brown fat in mice, according a new study.
The research, which was conducted at the Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Research and the Cologne Cluster of Excellence in Cellular Stress Responses in Aging-associated Diseases (CECAD) at the University of Cologne, allowed the mice to use a greater amount of beneficial brown fat, which is associated with greater weight loss. The mice showed significantly improved glucose metabolism as a result.
Humans and mice both have two separate kinds of fat: white and brown. White fat is the more common kind, that it is used to store excess energy in the body. Excessively high levels of white fat can trigger obesity, which can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes.
Brown fat, on the other hand, is associated with the burning of calories – thereby contributing to weight loss. Although brown fat isn’t perfectly understood, it is believed that it could be harnessed and turned into a cure for obesity. The challenge is finding new and effective ways to activate it.
In this study, the researchers found that a protein called Bace1 was more prevalent in the brown fat of obese mice, which suggests that Bace1 could be responsible for the metabolic problems they were experiencing. They used Bace1 inhibitors – currently being developed as a potential treatment for people with Alzheimer’s disease – believing that this might positive affect brown fat activation.
They were right. The mice treated with Bace1 inhibitors developed more active brown fat, and their glucose metabolism improved substantially.
Although further research is needed, the researchers believe that Bace1 inhibitors could be used a treatment for type 2 diabetes, obesity and other metabolic disorders.
The findings are published in Nature Cell Biology.

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