Transforming white fat into brown fat handy application to obesity treatments

September 2, 2020
Transforming white fat into brown fat handy application to obesity treatments

Out of the different fat cells in the human body, brown fat is more beneficial than white fat – scientists at the Joslin Diabetes Center (Joslin) in Massachusetts, US, have developed a variant of the gene-editing tool CRISPR to convert a patient’s white fat cells into brown fat cells. The human brown-like (HUMBLE) fat cells could then be transplanted as a way of treating obesity and diabetes, with more promising results than just exercise.

In their study, the gene-editing system was used to increase the expression of UCP1, a gene that causes white fat cell progenitors to convert into brown-fat-like cells. White fat cells were harvested while in their progenitor phase, meaning they hadn’t yet matured into their final form, and were then transplanted into mice to see how they fared.

The scientists saw that the transplanted white fat cells functioned in much the same way as the rodent’s existing brown fat cells. Another group of mice transplanted with the HUMBLE cells were noted to put on less weight than the mice with transplanted white fat cells, and were comparable to yet another group that received transplanted brown cells.

Additionally, mice given the HUMBLE cells in the experiments exhibited greater sensitivity to insulin and an increased ability to clear glucose from the blood, both of which are hindered in sufferers of type-2 diabetes.

The scientists believe that these positive results were for the most part because of the signals being sent from the transplanted cells to the existing brown fat cells, and foresee having existing white fat progenitor cells directly express the UCP1 gene through gene therapy, so as to take on the properties of the HUMBLE cells.

“Cells in different tissues communicate with each other,” said Professor Yu-Hua Tseng of Harvard Medical School, who is also a Joslin senior investigator.”In this case, we found that our transplanted HUMBLE cells secrete a molecule called nitric oxide, which is carried by red blood cells to the endogenous brown cells and activates those cells.” “Employing cell-based or gene therapies to treat obesity or type-2 diabetes used to be science fiction. Now scientific advances, such as CRISPR gene-editing technologies, will help us to improve the metabolism, the body weight, the quality of life and the overall health of people with obesity and diabetes,” Tseng added.


Category: Education, Features

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