How to burn more and more fats?! An ambition taken to an unparalleled level by researchers of a study who changed energy-storing white fat into energy-burning brown fat. They now wish to program cells to burn more calories. The findings have been published in the journal Cell Metabolism.
Converting energy-storing white fat cells into energy-burning brown ones has been achieved for the first time by a team of researchers from the University of Texas. This only happens under severe adrenaline-releasing stress conditions though. For instance, the body has to be subject to burning or freezing over long time periods.
Their breakthrough method which will hopefully be adjusted to become feasible might pave the way into medical treatments for obese patients. Scientists hope that the effects can be reproduced without putting the body under such stress.
The experiment involved 72 patients who had severe burns on more than 50 % of their bodies. 19 more people acted as controls.
White fat samples were taken from the burned patients at different time intervals, and the metabolism thereof, together with the composition of fat, were measured, as well as the patients’ own metabolism. These variables were later compared to those of the control group.
Brown fat cells and white ones differ greatly from each other, both genetically and functionally. The former are smaller with a greater number of mitochondria which produce a specific protein, the uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1), which is activated by adrenaline.
The burned patients showed release of extra adrenaline which was activated by the UPC1. Severe burns put the body under stress several weeks after, which account for additional adrenaline. This surplus of the hormone acts on the protein which then causes mitochondria to burn calories at an increased rate. Conveniently, this happens without producing chemical energy; rather, only heat is used.
The scientists noted that the white fat cells gradually began resembling brown fat cells. They explained that the cells might have been making the transition over the time period of the prolonged burn response.
“Our study provides proof of concept that browning of white fat is possible in humans,” said the lead author, Labros Sidossis. “The next step is to identify the mechanisms underpinning this effect and then to develop drugs that mimic the burn-induced effect.”