In a new study, researchers have developed a new way based on nanotechnology to prevent and even reverse obesity.
The research was conducted by a team from Texas Tech University.
Obesity is a growing problem in the United States.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), more than one-third of American adults are obese, and that rate has been rising steadily for decades.
Scientifically, obesity is characterized by an increase in adipose tissue—what most people call fat. Mammals, including humans, have two different kinds of adipose tissue in their bodies.
White adipose tissue, or white fat, is where energy is stored; brown adipose tissue, or brown fat, plays an important role in a body’s heat production through burning off fat (energy expenditure).
Because these functions are all vital to survival, fat tissue is an important part of any body.
However, as one grows from baby to adult, brown adipose tissue in the body gradually disappears or loses activity, and then the problem comes in when too much white fat accumulates in the body.
Adipose tissue is composed of adipocytes, which are special cells designed to store fat.
Different from white adipocytes that store fat, the brown or beige adipocytes are considered a ‘metabolic sink’ for fat, glucose, and other metabolites.
Beige adipocytes can take up and burn excessive glucose and fat to liberate heat; therefore, they are promising targets for the treatment of obesity and its related metabolic disorders, including insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, and cardiovascular disease.
Previous research on resveratrol, a nutrient commonly found in the skin of red grapes and a variety of berries, showed that it can increase brown and beige adipocyte formation—possibly transformed from adipose stromal cells (ASCs) in white fat—and therefore can have an effect in combating obesity by enhancing fat burning.
The problem, however, is that resveratrol was very difficult to deliver into the white fat it must target. Resveratrol does not dissolve well in water or body fluid and is highly subject to chemical alterations in the liver, so an oral delivery was impractical.
In the new study, the team studied how best to deliver resveratrol directly into ASCs in white fat, promoting their transformation into beige cells.
They invented a biocompatible and biodegradable nanoparticle that could enclose the resveratrol, increasing its abilities to dissolve.
This nanoparticle system can deliver resveratrol directly into ASCs within white fat and transform them into beige adipocytes and other types of cells.
In their animal study through intravenous injection, these nanoparticles targeted delivery of resveratrol to ASCs in subcutaneous white fat and resulted in significant browning of the white fat.
That translated to a 40% reduction in subcutaneous fat and a 50% reduction in visceral fat, which is found inside the abdomen, as well as an improved insulin balance to maintain blood glucose.
Because the nanoparticles are biocompatible and biodegradable, the researchers do their jobs with minimal side effects and minimal immune responses.
This could make them a better option for obesity treatment than what’s currently available.
The researchers now are working to delivered anti-obesity agents to subcutaneous ASCs, which can result in much higher anti-obesity efficacy and lower side effects.
They will test their new method on people with type 2 diabetes and obesity in their future study.
One author of the study is Dr. Shu Wang, an associate professor in the Texas Tech Department of Nutritional Sciences.
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