White, brown and beige adipocytes, or fat cells, are inherently different. Each of these cell types has different functions and each plays its own role in metabolism. In the human body, white adipose tissue is by far the most prevalent. Its primary function is energy storage. On the other hand, brown adipocytes utilize available energy to generate heat but are only found in a few places in the adult human body. Beige adipocytes, which represent a special type of brown adipocytes, appear mixed with brown adipocytes in human brown adipose tissue or develop within the white adipose tissue, particularly under the influence of cold in rodents.
A team of researchers headed by Dr. Siegfried Ussar from the Institute for Diabetes and Obesity (IDO) at the Helmholtz Diabetes Center/ Helmholtz Zentrum Mnchen, partner of the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD), and Professor C. Ronald Kahn from the Joslin Diabetes Center and Harvard Medical School has now succeeded in very specifically distinguishing the various adipocytes on the basis of their surface proteins. This is raising hope for a new method to treat those suffering from obesity and diabetes.
The good and the bad side of fat
Rapidly growing rates of obesity result in increasing rates of type 2 diabetes and other components of the metabolic syndrome. To ameliorate the consequences of excessive caloric intake and storage, modern medicine is seeking new ways to enhance energy expenditure to reduce body weight. "Because of its function as the body's thermal power station, brown adipose tissue has the ability to burn large quantities of energy that otherwise would be stored in white adipose tissue as fat," says first author Siegfried Ussar. For this reason, activation of brown adipose tissue using drugs offers an attractive approach to treat obesity and the illnesses that result from it, such as type 2 diabetes.
The amount of brown adipose tissue varies greatly from indivi
|Contact: Dr. Siegfried Ussar|
Helmholtz Zentrum Mnchen - German Research Center for Environmental Health