Breakthrough in fat cell conversion may boost obesity treatment

12:00 PM, 29 Jun, 2024
Breakthrough in fat cell conversion may boost obesity treatment

In what could be a breakthrough in the treatment of obesity and the development of more effective and safe weight-loss drugs, UC San Francisco scientists have successfully converted white fat cells, which store energy, into calorie-burning beige fat cells. 
This discovery, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, challenges previous assumptions that such a transformation required starting from stem cells. Instead, researchers found that by suppressing a protein, ordinary white fat cells can be converted into beige fat cells.
Dr Brian Feldman, senior author of the study, explained that this approach not only effectively turns white fat into beige fat but also suggests a lower barrier to achieving this transformation than previously thought. 
Beige fat cells, unlike white fat cells which store energy, burn calories to generate heat, potentially aiding in weight loss and metabolic health.
The research highlights the role of a protein called KLF-15 in regulating fat cell function. By manipulating this protein in mouse models, the team observed a conversion of white fat cells into beige ones. Importantly, this transformation was found to be linked to the regulation of a receptor called Adrb1, which helps maintain energy balance in fat cells.
The implications of this research extend to potential new therapies for obesity. 
Unlike existing weight-loss drugs that target appetite suppression or blood sugar regulation, targeting the Adrb1 receptor in fat cells could offer a more effective and potentially safer approach. 
This method could avoid side effects associated with brain-targeting drugs and provide longer-lasting effects, given the longevity of fat cells in the body.
Dr. Feldman says that while further research is needed, these findings mark a significant step towards developing novel treatments for obesity based on fat cell manipulation.