Researchers at the Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) have identified a mechanism that can give energy-storing white fat some of the beneficial characteristics of energy-burning brown fat.
The findings, based on studies of mice and of human fat tissue, could lead to obesity and type 2 diabetes treatment.
"Turning white fat into brown fat is an appealing therapeutic approach to staunching the obesity epidemic, but it has been difficult to do so in a safe and effective way," study leader and professor of Medicine and the Russell Berrie Foundation Professor at CUMC Domenico Accili said in a press release.
White fat can be "browned" with a class of drugs called thiazolidazines (TZDs), which increase the body's sensitivity to insulin.
Humans have two types of fat tissue: white fat, which stores excess energy in the form of triglycerides, and brown fat, which is highly efficient at dissipating stored energy as heat.
Infants have a relative abundance of brown fat, as protection against exposure to cold temperatures. In adults, however, almost all excess energy is stored as white fat.
TZDs have many adverse effects