Brown fat can continue to grow and divide, even after birth, according to researchers at Masonic Medical Research Institute (MMRI), the findings could have major implications for treating obesity as increasing the overall number of these cells to prevent or reduce the onset of obesity. It was previously thought that individuals were born with only a finite number of brown fat cells. The findings were reported in the study, ‘Both proliferation and lipogenesis of brown adipocytes contribute to postnatal brown adipose tissue growth in mice’, published in Scientific Reports.
"For years, researchers have been arguing over whether brown fat continues to grow after birth - we can now say with certainty that it does. This discovery opens a whole new direction for future breakthroughs,” said Dr Zhiqiang Lin, Assistant Professor and senior author of the manuscript, together with his research team at MMRI, quantified the number of brown fat cells present in new -born animals. “Our next step will focus on identifying the developmental signals responsible for the growth of brown fat cells and determining whether we can manipulate gene expression to generate more.”
The human body has two main forms of fat: brown and white. Brown fat acts as a furnace in the body, burning energy and turning it into heat. White fat, on the other hand, operates as a freezer, storing energy for later use. When the energy one consumes exceeds the energy exerted, obesity ensues. It is indeed a consequence of energy imbalance, white fat is storing more energy than brown fat is burning.
This published manuscript is the first to suggest that brown fat continues to divide after birth, albeit only for a small window of one to two weeks. With this knowledge on hand, researchers can now interrogate the mechanisms that allow brown fat to grow and potentially devise ways to continue their propagation, to control weight.
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