Scientists find the key to treating obesity

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Researchers at EPFL (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) have made a significant discovery about how fat behaves in different parts of the body, particularly in a region called the omentum.

This area, an apron-like layer of fatty tissue hanging from the stomach and covering internal organs, is notorious for its role in the “apple” body shape and associated health risks like diabetes and heart disease.

The study, led by Professor Bart Deplancke and published in the journal Cell Metabolism, found a unique set of cells in the omentum that limit its ability to create new fat cells, a process known as adipogenesis.

Instead of forming new cells, the omentum tends to enlarge existing cells, leading to hypertrophy. This can contribute to chronic inflammation and insulin resistance, which are linked to various metabolic diseases.

Understanding why omental fat acts this way is crucial because, unlike subcutaneous fat (the fat you can pinch under your skin), it does not readily make new fat cells, even when there is an excess of calories.

This research sheds light on why that is the case by identifying a specific population of cells in the omental adipose tissue that plays a key role in this process.

The team used advanced single-cell RNA sequencing to analyze cells from various human fat depots. This involved isolating different cellular subpopulations to see how likely they were to turn into fat cells.

The research, which involved over thirty human donors and was supported by institutions like CHUV, compared cells from different locations to understand their unique properties.

What the researchers discovered was quite fascinating. They found a population of mesothelial cells, typically known to line and protect internal body cavities, that in the omentum showed unusual behavior.

Some of these mesothelial cells transitioned into a state similar to mesenchymal cells—cells that can develop into various types including adipocytes, the cells that store fat.

This transitional behavior of the mesothelial cells appears to play a crucial role in regulating the ability of the omentum to undergo adipogenesis.

These mesenchymal-like mesothelial cells have an enhanced ability to control their surroundings, effectively putting a brake on the expansion of omental fat.

By switching between mesothelial and mesenchymal states, these cells help manage how much fat the omentum stores and its overall impact on metabolism.

Moreover, the study identified a particular mechanism involved in this process. The cells express high levels of a protein called Insulin-like Growth Factor Binding Protein 2 (IGFBP2), which is known to inhibit the formation of new fat cells.

These cells release IGFBP2, which then impacts receptors on nearby stem and progenitor cells in the fat tissue, preventing them from maturing into full-fledged fat cells.

This discovery not only advances our understanding of how different types of body fat function but also opens up new avenues for treating and managing obesity, particularly metabolically unhealthy obesity.

With this knowledge, future therapies might aim to modulate this natural process in the omentum to treat or prevent metabolic diseases. It also suggests the potential for developing targeted treatments that could specifically alter how certain fat depots in the body behave.

If you care about weight loss, please read studies that hop extract could reduce belly fat in overweight people, and early time-restricted eating could help lose weight.

For more information about weight loss, please see recent studies about a simple path to weight loss, and results showing a non-invasive treatment for obesity and diabetes.

The research findings can be found in Cell Metabolism.

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