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Obesity: Brown fat cells are the key to losing weight


Brown adipose tissue activity can help you lose weight

According to scientists, brown fat cells can boost your metabolism and thus help you lose weight. For this purpose, unwanted white fat cells are converted into energy-consuming brown slimming cells. Researchers from Munich have succeeded in making the activity of the brown adipose tissue visible.

Brown fat helps you lose weight

US scientists from the University of North Carolina and Columbia University reported last year on a new fat-path patch that is said to help you lose weight by converting white fat, which normally stores energy, into brown fat, which is energy burns. A medical plaster designed by researchers from Singapore that was able to reduce belly fat by more than 30 percent is also based on this effect.

Prevention research has generally focused on brown adipose tissue since it was first detected in adults. However, there was no method to visualize the activity of the tissue without injecting substances. A team of researchers from Munich has now succeeded.

Of great interest for therapies against obesity or diabetes

In the cold, brown adipose tissue acts like a heating element, the activity of which is beneficial for the energy balance, according to a statement from the Technical University of Munich (TUM).

This metabolic activity of brown fat decreases with increasing age in humans. In addition, it is less active in diabetics or obese. That is why scientists are researching the factors that keep brown fat active.

Because it has the ability to burn energy from carbohydrates and fat, it is of great interest for therapies against obesity or diabetes.

With the conventional measuring method, radioactive substances are injected

When measuring the activity of the brown fat with the conventional method, radioactive substances, so-called tracers, are injected, which participate in the metabolism and thus make the tissue turnover observable.

However, a team from TUM and the Helmholtz Zentrum München has developed a new, non-invasive method with which the first measurements on humans were also successful.

Laser method gets under the skin

The team demonstrated a relationship between the local metabolic activity of the tissue and changes in the oxygen saturation of the red blood pigment (hemoglobin), as measured by Multispectral Opto-Acoustic Tomography (MSOT).

Professor Vasilis Ntziachristos, head of the Chair of Biological Imaging at TUM and the Institute for Biological and Medical Imaging at Helmholtz Zentrum München, has developed MSOT in a groundbreaking way and explains the method as follows:

“A laser beam sends light pulses into the tissue about two to three centimeters deep. This light is absorbed by tissues that contain hemoglobin, causing them to warm up minimally and temporarily expand. This expansion creates sound waves that can be measured. "

The study now shows a direct connection between the metabolic activation of brown adipose tissue, measured with hemoglobin gradients as intrinsic biomarkers of tissue metabolism, and the calorie consumption of the mouse after pharmacological stimulation.

Blood flow and oxygen

"The increased metabolism of brown adipose tissue is covered by increased blood circulation and oxygen utilization, which is visible in the tissue as well as in the venous outflow through MSOT," explains Professor Martin Klingenspor from the Chair of Molecular Nutritional Medicine at the Else Kröner-Fresenius Center at TUM.

He is one of the main authors of the study, which was published in the specialist magazine "Cell Metabolism". "This means that blood flow and changes in the oxygen saturation in the blood are markers of the metabolic activity of brown fat."

Thus "the new method can become a key instrument for measuring metabolic parameters in the tissue", says Prof. Ntziachristos - "it can revolutionize the understanding of metabolic processes not only in patients but also in healthy people".

Because MSOT makes it possible to examine an increased number of tissue parameters that go beyond metabolism, such as inflammation or the growth of blood vessels (angiogenesis).

The combination of safe non-ionizing radiation and a portable device will promote their use in outpatient settings.

The next step will be to check the accuracy of the technology using medication and how it works on the body's active fat content. (ad)

Author and source information

Video: In Obesity Fight, as Diets Fail Drug Search Turns to Brown Fat for Weight Loss (August 2020).