Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How 'beige' fat makes the pounds melt away

Date:
August 28, 2012
Source:
Universität Bonn
Summary:
Researchers have decoded a signal path that could boost the burning of body fat. Mice that are missing a signal switch called VASP are clearly leaner and have more of the coveted brown and beige-colored fat cells that convert energy into heat. This might point the way to a new method for fighting obesity.

Researchers from the University of Bonn and the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried have decoded a signal path that could boost the burning of body fat. Mice that are missing a signal switch called VASP are clearly leaner and have more of the coveted brown and beige-colored fat cells that convert energy into heat. This might point the way to a new method for fighting obesity.

The researchers presented their results in the current issue of the journal Science Signaling.

The numbers of obese people are climbing steeply all over the world-with obvious major consequences for their health. Due to excess food intake and a lack of physical activity, but also due to genetic factors, the risk for overweight people dying from diseases like coronary heart disease, diabetes and atherosclerosis increases. "The body's fat reserves are actually used as a place to store energy that allows surviving lean times," says Prof. Dr. Alexander Pfeifer, Director of the Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology of the University of Bonn. "But nowadays, hardly anyone in the industrialized nations is exposed to such hunger phases anymore."

A signal path boosts the burning of fat in the body

Since many people ingest more energy in their diet than they can burn, many harbor dreams of a magic pill that will simply make fat melt away. Now, scientists working with Prof. Pfeifer in collaboration with colleagues from Epileptology and from the PharmaCenter Bonn, together with the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried -- have discovered a signal path in the metabolism of mice that is indeed able to greatly boost combustion inside the rodents' bodies.

"Science distinguishes between three different types of fat," reports Prof. Pfeifer. White fat is used to store energy and is found in the "problem zones" of overweight people. "Brown fat cells, however, are used as a kind of heating unit," says the pharmacologist. "In babies, they make sure that they do not lose too much heat." Unfortunately, adults have hardly any brown fat cells left-except for small areas at the back of their necks and along their spines. The third category-the so-called "beige fat cells"-are the ones the researchers are betting on. "Just like brown fat cells, they are efficient at converting energy from food into heat, and they can form from the undesirable white fat cells," explains Prof. Pfeifer.

How can white fat cells be converted into brown or beige ones?

Consequently, the team's research focused on how to turn the white fat cells into as many beige ones as possible. "The issue was finding a way to brown white fat -- of course, not in a skillet, but directly inside the body," the University of Bonn pharmacologist summarized the problem. In a study published in 2009, the team around Prof. Pfeifer found that brown fat needs the neurotransmitter "cGMP." And according to the new findings, this is also true for beige fat. The researchers now studied in mice where cGMP comes from and how it is regulated.

These studies showed that vasodilator-stimulated phosphoprotein (VASP) plays an essential role as a switch on a signal path that slows down the formation of brown and beige fat cells. "This is why mice in which the gene for forming VASP was switched off have the more active brown and beige fat," Prof. Pfeifer summarizes the study results. "These animals are lean and dissipate more energy." In developing a regulator for the VASP/cGMP signaling pathway, the researchers see a potential starting point for promoting the energy- and fat-burning brown fat cells.

Hope for new obesity therapies

"This might even allow us to talk the white fat cells into converting to brown or beige fat," says the University of Bonn researcher. "This might lead to a useful option for successfully treating obesity." But this is still a long way off. So far, this signal path has been described in mice only. "We will have to see first if this is also successful in humans," says Prof. Pfeifer, and added that this was just basic research that could open up new possibilities.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Universität Bonn. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Alexander Pfeifer et al. A VASP/Rac/sGC pathway controls cGMP production in adipocytes. Science Signaling, 2012 DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2002867

Cite This Page:

Universität Bonn. "How 'beige' fat makes the pounds melt away." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 August 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120828073053.htm>.
Universität Bonn. (2012, August 28). How 'beige' fat makes the pounds melt away. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120828073053.htm
Universität Bonn. "How 'beige' fat makes the pounds melt away." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120828073053.htm (accessed September 2, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

U.N. Says Ebola Travel Restrictions Will Cause Food Shortage

U.N. Says Ebola Travel Restrictions Will Cause Food Shortage

Newsy (Sep. 2, 2014) — The U.N. says the problem is two-fold — quarantine zones and travel restrictions are limiting the movement of both people and food. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Get on Your Bike! London Cycling Popularity Soars Despite Danger

Get on Your Bike! London Cycling Popularity Soars Despite Danger

AFP (Sep. 1, 2014) — Wedged between buses, lorries and cars, cycling in London isn't for the faint hearted. Nevertheless the number of people choosing to bike in the British capital has doubled over the past 15 years. Duration: 02:27 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can You Train Your Brain To Eat Healthy?

Can You Train Your Brain To Eat Healthy?

Newsy (Sep. 1, 2014) — New research says if you condition yourself to eat healthy foods, eventually you'll crave them instead of junk food. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

We've Got Mites Living In Our Faces And So Do You

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) — A new study suggests 100 percent of adult humans (those over 18 years of age) have Demodex mites living in their faces. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins