Fight excess fat with fat cells?

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Fat cells are said to help you lose weight

Researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston are working on fighting obesity with the help of so-called brown fat cells. In experiments with mice, Bruce Spiegelman and colleagues found that the brown fat cells promote the burning of fat and thus bring about a significant reduction in body weight.

In contrast to the widely researched white fat cells, the brown fat cells do not store fat, but use it to generate heat. The production of the brown fat cells is controlled by the hitherto unknown hormone irisin, the US researchers report. For example, an increase in the irisin level in the overweight mice caused a significant increase in the brown fat cells, which subsequently caused the animals to lose weight significantly. However, Bruce Spiegelman and colleagues explained that there was no comparable effect in normal-weight mice.

Increase in brown fat cells helps overweight people lose weight The idea of ​​fighting excess fat with the help of fat cells is fascinating researchers worldwide. An increase in brown fat cells is said to help overweight people reduce their weight, improve their sugar metabolism and prevent diabetes. The studies by the US researchers on the influence of brown fat cells have shown promising results. With the help of a newly discovered hormone, the scientists have succeeded in increasing the proportion of brown fat cells in the adipose tissue of mice and thus counteracting the excess weight of the animals. In previous studies, researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute had previously found that increased production of a special gene activator in the muscles of mice resulted in improved protection against obesity and diabetes. In their current study, Spiegelman and colleagues therefore looked for possible influencing factors that can be considered as a communicator between muscle and fat tissue.

Newly discovered hormone helps you lose weight and prevents diabetes. The US scientists came across a hitherto unknown hormone that is released by muscle cells and reaches the adipose tissue with the blood. The researchers named the hormone after the Greek goddess Iris, Irisin. According to the researchers, the hormone stimulates the formation of cells with the properties of brown fat cells in white adipose tissue and increases the energy consumption of this tissue. For example, an increase in the level of Irisin over a period of ten days in the overweight mice resulted in a significant weight loss and an improvement in the sugar metabolism values, which are normally considered risk factors for diabetes. The normal-weight animals, however, showed no effect on weight when the irisin level was artificially increased, the US scientists explained.

Endurance training increases the release of irisin The researchers were also able to demonstrate that irisin blood values ​​are significantly increased in both mice and humans through endurance training lasting several weeks. According to Spiegelman, the irisin could thus be at least partially responsible for the positive effects of sport on health. At first glance, it may seem paradoxical that an energy-consuming activity such as sport increases the production of a hormone, which in turn increases energy consumption, but the mechanism is likely to be evolutionary, explained the US researchers. For example, the effect could serve to increase the heat production known as tremors due to muscle contraction in massive cold. According to the US researchers, this explanation is supported by the fact that the proportion of brown fat cells in mice increases when they are exposed to massive cold for several hours.

Regarding the properties of brown fat cells, the US scientists explained that they do not normally occur in white fat tissue in humans, but are located in the separate brown fat tissue. While mice have a relatively large amount of this type of tissue and the brown fat cells are distributed all over the body, the existence of comparable tissue in humans was unknown until a few years ago. It wasn't until 2007 that researchers discovered that adult humans also have brown adipose tissue around the neck and clavicle.

European research project on brown fat cells Since the discovery of brown fat tissue, researchers worldwide have been working on possible methods to increase the proportion of brown fat cells in the human body. Last year, the European research project “Diabat” started, which among other things tests various active substances that are supposed to increase the proportion of brown fat cells in the human body. According to the scientists, 50 grams more brown fat cells would increase the energy consumption of an adult by 20 percent, according to the coordinator of the "Diabat" research project, Stephan Herzig from Heidelberg University and the German Cancer Research Center. The newly discovered hormone irisin could play a crucial role here if the results from the experiments with mice are confirmed in further studies, Herzig explained. At the same time, however, other hormones are also being investigated as part of the research project, which are attributed to an increase in the number of brown fat cells. The researchers hope to be able to use the potential of brown fat cells clinically to treat obesity soon. (fp)

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