Longevity Briefs: Using Gene-Editing to Boost Energy-Burning Fat

Posted on 28 October 2020

Longevity briefs provides a short summary of a novel research, medicine, or technology that caught the attention of our researchers in Oxford, due to its potential to improve our health, wellbeing, and longevity.

Why is this research important: Not all fat is created equal. While most fat serves as an energy store, some types of fat also burn energy to create heat. Known as ‘brown’ and ‘beige’ fat, these tissues are thought to be protective against metabolic diseases like obesity and diabetes. Could we treat such diseases by implanting beige or brown fat?

What did the researchers do: In this study published in the preprint journal bioRxiv, researchers harvested human fat precursor cells. Using CRISPR gene editing, they were then able to deactivate a gene called NRIP1, which resulted in fat precursor cells developing into ‘beige’ fat cells. These were implanted into mice fed a high-fat diet.

Key takeaway(s) from this research: Mice implanted with beige fat had improved blood sugar control, reduced liver triglycerides, and put on nearly 50% less weight than controls. These results provide a promising proof of concept and bring us one step closer to implementing this in humans.. Around a gram of fat would need to be harvested to provide enough fat cells for this treatment.

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