Can you fight fat with fat? If a recent study posted by our friends at io9 is any indication, researchers may have discovered a way to transform white fat cells, which store energy and make it difficult to lose weight, into brown fat cells, which help facilitate calorie-burning.
While the procedure has yet to be conducted on humans, obese mice responded positively to the experiment. io9 reports:
Yu-Hua Tseng, a researcher at the Joslin Diabetes Center, found that mice fat tissues and skeletal muscles would, when exposed to the protein BMP-7, start displaying all the signs of brown fat cells. When the researchers added the diabetes drug rosiglitazone to the mix, even more brown fat started to emerge from the white fat cell cultures. They were also able to take these new brown fat cultures and inject them back into the adult mice. The cells survived and developed into mature brown fat cells, another excellent sign that it's possible to change one fat cell into another.
While Tseng insists that "diet and exercise are still the best approaches to losing weight in the general population," he notes that the results of his research may provide hope "for people who are genetically predisposed to obesity." For these individuals, Tseng concludes, "There is an urgent need to develop new interventions."