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There's An On-Off Switch To Burning Stored Fat: Study

Update Date: Jun 06, 2014 08:40 AM EDT
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A molecular pathway called mTORC1 controls the conversion of unhealthy white fat into beige fat, according to a new research. 

The research also noted that a protein, Grb10, serves as the on-off switch for mTORC1 signaling and the "beigeing" of fat. 

According to scientists, the findings could lead to development of novel diabetes and obesity drugs. 

Grb10 is stimulated by cold stress which causes the body to burn energy. 

"We know that if we want to keep our body lean, we have to get rid of extra nutrients in the body, which means burning more energy," said senior author Feng Liu, Ph.D., professor of pharmacology at the UT Health Science Center and director of the Metabolic Syndrome Research Center at Xiangya Second Hospital, Central South University, in Changsha, China, in the press release.

"Understanding how beigeing is controlled is so very important because if we can improve energy expenditure, we can reduce obesity," Dr. Liu said.

Adipose (fat) tissues including white adipose tissue and brown adipose tissue are significant regulators of metabolism. According to research, having too much white adipose tissue and not burning it off through exercise of other energy expenditure could lead to obesity and metabolic diseases i.e, type 2 diabetes. 

"Normally when we eat something, we store it in white fat," said co-author Lily Dong, Ph.D., professor of cellular and structural biology at the UT Health Science Center. "For the extra food we eat, it is better to release it, not store it. So finding a way to turn the white fat into beige and burn the energy that normally we store would have high therapeutic potential for the treatment of obesity and its related diseases. Dr. Liu has identified the pathway to do this."

The study has been published in this month's issue of Cell Metabolism. 

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