Sunday, May 09, 2010

Slimming Aid from the Cell Laboratory? Inflammation Enzyme Regulates the Production of Brown Fat Tissue

Scientists of the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) have published an article in Science revealing that the COX-2 inflammation enzyme stimulates the formation of new brown fat tissue in mice. Brown fat tissue transforms energy into heat. Therefore, mice with increased COX-2 production have a higher energy consumption and are slimmer. On the basis of these results scientists might develop a novel weight loss method for pathogenic obesity.

Love handles, muffin tops and stomach tires -- white fat tissue forms the typical curves in the notorious problem areas to store energy. Exactly the opposite happens in brown fat tissue: Instead of being stored, energy gets transformed into heat. To the dismay of many people, adults have only small amounts of this energy burner. By contrast, babies and animals in hibernation have lots of it in their bodies where it serves for heat regulation.

Researchers know that external influences can stimulate the production of brown fat tissue in animals. If rodents are kept at low temperatures, clusters of brown fat cells form amid the white fat tissue. A DKFZ research team headed by Dr. Stephan Herzig, jointly with colleagues from Munich, Marburg, Frankfurt and Lausanne, has investigated the molecular causes of this phenomenon. They discovered that the production of the COX-2 inflammation enzyme is increased in white fat tissue of mice after exposure to cold temperatures. COX-2 is well known to scientists: It regulates the key step in the biosynthesis of prostaglandins -- inflammation-promoting hormones which are also responsible for activating pain...

Even without using cold temperatures the scientists were able to stimulate the formation of brown fat cell clusters in white fat tissue by boosting the COX-2 production in mice using a molecular-biological trick. The body weight of these animals was 20 percent lower than that of normal animals. Even on a calorie-rich diet they did not put on weight.

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