New pathway to stimulate burning of body fat found
Washington: In a new study, researchers have found the signals that help to make the pounds melt away.
Since many people ingest more energy in their diet than they can burn, many harbour dreams of a magic pill that will simply make fat melt away.
Now, scientists from the University of Bonn and MPI Martinsried have discovered a signal path in the metabolism of mice that is indeed able to greatly boost combustion inside the rodents’ bodies.
“Science distinguishes between three different types of fat,” Prof. Dr. Alexander Pfeifer, Director of the Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology of the University of Bonn, said.
White fat is used to store energy and is found in the “problem zones” of overweight people.
“Brown fat cells, however, are used as a kind of heating unit,” Pfeifer said.
“In babies, they make sure that they do not lose too much heat,” he said.
Unfortunately, adults have hardly any brown fat cells left–except for small areas at the back of their necks and along their spines.
The third category – the so-called “beige fat cells”, are the ones the researchers are betting on.
“Just like brown fat cells, they are efficient at converting energy from food into heat, and they can form from the undesirable white fat cells,” Prof. Pfeifer said.
Consequently, the team’s research focused on how to turn the white fat cells into as many beige ones as possible.
“The issue was finding a way to brown white fat – of course, not in a skillet, but directly inside the body,” he said.
In a study published in 2009, the team around Prof. Pfeifer found that brown fat needs the neurotransmitter “cGMP” and according to the new findings, this is also true for beige fat.
The researchers now studied in mice where cGMP comes from and how it is regulated.
These studies showed that vasodilator-stimulated phosphoprotein (VASP) plays an essential role as a switch on a signal path that slows down the formation of brown and beige fat cells.
“This is why mice in which the gene for forming VASP was switched off have the more active brown and beige fat,” Prof. Pfeifer said.
“These animals are lean and dissipate more energy,” he added.