Metabolism

Fat Cells with a Sweet Tooth

Posted on 15 December 2019

New research in mice sheds light on a novel pathway for synthesising thermogenic fat cells. otherwise known as brown (or beige) fat cells.

Unlike regular old white fat, which stores calories, mitochondria-packed brown-fat cells burn more energy, producing heat, meaning less calories are hoarded.

It was once thought that, in humans, only babies had brown fat. But in 2009, researchers found small amounts of brown fat in adults.

Activating this ‘thermogenic’ fat is thought to be an attractive way to combat obesity and type 2 diabetes.

We have identified a new population of beige adipocytes that controls thermogenesis and glucose homeostasis in the absence of β-AR signalling. It is conceivable that multiple subtypes of thermogenic adipocytes with distinct cellular origins exist, and that each subtype has unique biological roles, depending on the nature of external stimuli, such as cold acclimation, caloric restriction or manipulation, exercise, cachexia, bariatric surgery, and injury. 

Chen, Y., Ikeda, K., Yoneshiro, T. et al. (2019)

References

  1. Chen, Y., Ikeda, K., Yoneshiro, T. et al. Thermal stress induces glycolytic beige fat formation via a myogenic state. Nature 565, 180–185 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-018-0801-z
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