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Goodbye extra pounds: how to turn fat into a calorie burner

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This research was published on July 1 in The Journal of Clinical Investigation. The team of scientists behind it have developed a unique technique, making it possible to transform white fat, often blamed for weight gain, into brown fat, renowned for its ability to burn calories efficiently. This advance could give rise to new therapeutic solutions in the fight against obesity.

As a reminder, obesity is a complex chronic disease characterized by excessive accumulation of body fat which presents a major health risk. It is defined by a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30. According to WHO figures: “ In 2022, 2.5 billion adults 18 years and over were overweight and of this total, more than 890 million were obese, which represents 43% of adults aged 18 and over overweight (43% of men and 44% women) ; this proportion increased compared to 1990, when it was 25% ”. Obesity has therefore become in 30 years one of the most important global public health issues.

A revolution in understanding the role of fats

Conventionally, there are two types of adipose tissue: white fat (White Adipose Tissue) and brown fat (Brown Adipose Tissue). The first plays the role of a long-term lipid reservoir, nestling under the epidermis and around the organs to provide an insulating and shock-absorbing function.

Conversely, brown fat, rich in cellular generators, consumes lipids to produce heat, s& #8217;proving particularly valuable in infants and hibernating mammals (marmots, dormice, bears or hedgehogs for example).

This differentiation has long served the human species during its evolution. Indeed, during periods of glaciation and food shortage, white fat allowed adults to store energy during periods of abundance to survive during periods of famine. At the same time, brown fat helped infants and young children maintain body heat, vital for survival in cold environments where the ability to generate internal heat was essential for survival.

Problem: in our contemporary societies, characterized by an overabundance of dietary fats and an increasing sedentary lifestyle , white fat tends to accumulate excessively, to the detriment of our health.

The key role of the Klf15 protein

Scientists Brian Feldman and Liang Li, authors of the study, investigated the mechanisms by which white fat is transmuted into brown fat, the latter being known for its ability to burn calories. Their work focused on a specific protein called Klf15, abundantly present in white fat.

En eliminating Klf15 in rodents, they observed a transformation of white fat into a more active and thermogenic adipose tissue, similar to brown fat . This transmutation occurs thanks to the increase in the production of an adrenergic receptor (protein located on the surface of cells which receive and respond to signals from adrenaline and noradrenaline) called Adrb1.

In the absence of Klf15, levels of this receptor increase, facilitating the conversion of white fat to brown fat. In other words, deprived of Klf15, white fat adopts a behavior similar to that of brown fat, consuming more calories and generating heat. A discovery which suggests the development of new therapeutic approaches in the treatment of overweight and obesity.

Very promising therapeutic applications

The highlighting of this mechanism opens considerable therapeutic horizons. If clinical studies are currently exploring the use of Adrb3 receptor agonist molecules (substances which, when they bind to these receptors, activate them and mimic the effect of the Adrb3 receptor) adrenaline and norepinephrine) to optimize metabolism, this research suggests that the Adrb1 receptor could constitute an even more relevant therapeutic target.

The work of Feldman and his collaborators revealed that by inhibiting Klf15 expression, not only can white fat cells differentiate into beige fat cells (an intermediate phenotype between white and brown) but that this cellular transition occurs ;#8217;also turns out to be more accessible than initially thought.  This technique should be seen as a form of biohacking or reprogramming of adipose cells.< /p>

The results of this work are very promising, but the hardest part remains to be done: translating them into effective treatments. However, this will absolutely not solve the problem of obesity at the source, which is a multifactorial disease: poor eating habits, harmful strategies of the agri-food industry players promoting junk food (an excellent report from Arte deals with this problem), genetic, metabolic or environmental factors. However, this is still a huge step forward in understanding the metabolic mechanisms of the human body.

  • Researchers have developed a technique to convert white fat into brown fat to burn calories more efficiently.
  • This discovery could lead to new approaches to treat overweight and obesity by reprogramming fat cells.
  • Despite this progress, obesity remains a complex disease and if a treatment one day emerges from this research, it will not solve the problem at the root.

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116