Researchers from Gladstone Institutes San Francisco in the US treated mice with a drug called bexarotene (Bex) and found they had more “brown fat, faster metabolisms and less body weight gain, even after being fed a high-calorie diet”.
“All current weight loss drugs control appetite and there is nothing on the market that targets energy expenditure. Introducing brown fat is an exciting new approach to treating obesity and associated metabolic diseases, such as diabetes,” said Baoming Nie from the Gladstone Institutes.
Scientists used cellular reprogramming to convert muscle precursor cells and white fat cells into “brown” fat cells and said it could be a new way to combat obesity and type II diabetes.
“Bex acts on a protein called retinoid X receptor (RXR), which controls a network of other cellular proteins. Specifically, when RXR was stimulated by Bex, it turned on genes needed to produce “brown” fat and turned off genes linked to white fat or muscle,” the study explained.
Brown fat, unlike white fat, helps the body burn energy through heat.
“However, while Bex is very effective at creating brown fat cells, it is not a very specific drug, and there are several potential side effects that may arise from taking it,” said Sheng Ding from Gladstone.
Researchers noted that infants are born with small amounts of brown fat, but as they age, most of it disappears.
“In adults, people with higher amounts of brown fat have lower body mass, and increasing brown fat by as little as 50 grams could lead up to a 10 to 20 pound weight loss in one year,” noted the study published in the journal Cell Reports