Combating obesity: This drug produces 'brown fat' that burns calories

Researchers found that mice treated mice with a drug called bexarotene (Bex) had more "brown fat, faster metabolisms and less body weight gain, even after being fed a high-calorie diet".  

By Zee Media Bureau | Updated: Jan 18, 2017, 16:50 PM IST
Combating obesity: This drug produces 'brown fat' that burns calories

New York: Scientists have found a 'wonder drug' that can create the elusive and beneficial "brown" fat – that helps burn more calories and eradicate harmful white fat from the body.

The discovery made by the researchers at Gladstone Institutes San Francisco in the US could be a significant step towards boosting metabolism, combating obesity and Type II diabetes.

Researchers found that mice treated mice with a drug called bexarotene (Bex) 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 adipose tissue (BAT) or 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.

Brown fat is abundantly present in newborns and in hibernating mammals. Although brown fat is also present and metabolically active in adult humans, its prevalence decreases as humans age. It's main function is to generate body heat.

The research has been published in the journal Cell Reports.

(With IANS inputs)