New York: If you want to lose weight fast, turn your focus on brown fat instead of normal, white fat. According to researchers, brown fat plays an active role in metabolism.
"If we could manipulate the number or activity of these fat cells, we could force our bodies to burn extra calories," said Evan Rosen, an investigator at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre (BIDMC) in Massachusetts, US.
The body contains two types of fat cells - white and brown.
While white fat serves to store excess calories until they are needed by the body, brown adipocytes actually burn fat by turning it into heat.
Turned on by cold temperatures and by certain hormones and drugs, brown fat generates heat through the actions of a group of genes collectively termed the thermogenic gene expression programme, the best known of which encodes uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1).
UCP1 dissipates, or wastes, energy in the mitochondria of brown fat cells, causing heat generation as a by-product.
Now, researchers have demonstrated that the transcription factor IRF4 (interferon regulatory factor 4) plays a key role in brown fat's thermogenic process, regulating energy expenditure and cold tolerance.
"With this new discovery of IRF4's key transcriptional role, we can identify new drug targets that directly affect this pathway," Rosen noted.
The findings appeared in the journal Cell.