In a new study, researchers found an FDA-approved drug can create brown fat (‘good fat’) that helps lose weight.
They found the drug could help generate more brown fat, improve metabolisms, and lower body weight gain, even with a high-calorie diet.
The research was conducted by scientists at the Gladstone Institutes.
Brown fat is different than the more commonly known white fat, which stores energy.
In contrast, brown fat helps the body burn energy through heat.
Previous studies have shown that infants are born with small amounts of brown fat but then lose it when they grow up.
In adults, people with more brown fat have lower BMI. Increasing brown fat by as little as 50 grams could lead up to a 10 to 20-pound weight loss in 1 year.
Growing brown fat is an effective way to treat obesity and boost body functions.
In the current study, the team converted muscle precursor cells and white fat cells into brown fat cells using cellular reprogramming.
They tested 20,000 chemicals until they found one that changed the identity of the cells most effectively.
This chemical is an anti-cancer drug called bexarotene (Bex). It can target a protein that was not previously shown to be involved in generating brown fat.
The researchers fed mice a high-calorie diet for 4 weeks, but they only treated half of the mice with the drug. In this way, they could test how well Bex controls body weight.
They found the mice that were given Bex had more brown fat, burned more calories, had less body fat, and gained less weight.
The researchers suggest that their findings may help develop a new way to combat obesity and type 2 diabetes.
In the future, they will try to develop a safer drug that only affects genes involved in creating brown fat.
The lead author of the study is Baoming Nie, Ph.D., a former scholar at Gladstone.
The study is published in Cell Reports.
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