London: Using advanced genome sequencing technologies, researchers have uncovered the mechanism by which white fat cells from humans get reprogrammed to turn browner, thereby helping to burn fat.
Browning of white adipose tissue increases the energy consumption of the body and, therefore, constitutes a potential strategy for future treatment of obesity.
"We stimulated browning in human white adipocytes by a drug used to treat type II diabetes and compared white and "brite" (brown-in-white) fat cells," said lead researcher Susanne Mandrup from the University of Southern Denmark.
"This showed that "brite" fat cells have distinct gene programmes which, when active, make these cells particularly energy-consuming," Mandrup added.
The researchers also discovered the protein required for the reprogramming process.
"By identifying the areas of the genome that are directly involved in the reprogramming, we have also identified an important factor in the process - the gene regulatory protein KLF11 (Kruppel Like Factor-11), which is found in all fat cells, and we have shown that it is required for the reprogramming to take place," Mandrup said.
It has taken the researchers four years to discover the mechanism.
"This knowledge potentially means, that in the future we can target drugs to activate the genomic regions and browning factors like KLF11 in the treatment of obesity," said first author of the study Anne Loft from the University of Southern Denmark.
The study appeared in the journal Genes & Development.