From: Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares
Published October 11, 2017 09:09 AM

Nature Communications: A Specific Protein Regulates the Burning of Body Fat to Generate Heat

Scientists at the Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares Carlos III (CNIC) have identified a protein that holds promise as a target for therapies to reduce obesity. Drs. Guadalupe Sabio and Nuria Matesanz have demonstrated that MKK6 controls the conversion of fat stores, known as white fat, into brown fat, in which lipids are burned to maintain body temperature and reduce obesity. The study is published today in  Nature Communications.

Obesity is a global epidemic, with overweight or obesity affecting an estimated 2200 million people worldwide. The research team led by Guadalupe Sabio analyzed fat tissue samples from obese patients at the University Hospital in Salamanca, and found that these samples contained above-normal levels of the protein MKK6. Detailed analysis of MKK6 function showed that this protein impedes the conversion of fat stores, known as white fat, into brown fat, in which lipids are burned to maintain body temperature.

Brown fat has attracted a lot of interest in recent years among obesity researchers. Body fat is essential for maintaining an appropriate energy balance and regulating body temperature. But not all fat is the same. The body contains two types of fat tissue: white adipose tissue is a store of excess calories, whereas brown adipose tissue is considered a ‘good’ fat that burns lipids to maintain body temperature. Brown fat can be activated by cold to “generate heat instead of storing fat,” explained Sabio. But the most interesting observation is that “white adipose tissue can be converted into brown adipose tissue, thus increasing body temperature.” According to Dr. Sabio, this has led to a burgeoning interest in the clinical potential of brown fat, since “activation of this tissue could reduce excess weight.” According to Nuria Matesanz, the results of the study indicate that obese individuals lose the ability to activate brown fat or to convert white fat in to brown, and therefore are unable to lose weight via this route.

Read more at Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares

Image: This is a thermal image of a mouse, with white indicating the location of brown fat (maximum heat generation). (Credit: Nuria Matesanz, CNIC)

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