Scientists develop a new way to identify good fat

UTHealth researchers Ali Azhdarinia, Ph.D., seated, and Alexes Daquinag, Ph.D., have developed a brown fat detection approach that worked in a preclinical study. Credit: The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

When it comes to fat, you want the brown type and not so much of the white variety because brown fat burns energy to keep you warm and metabolically active, while white fat stores excess energy around your waist, causing health problems. Researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) Medical School are studying brown fat with a goal of fighting obesity.

Right now, it is hard for researchers to spot brown at the molecular level, which is hindering efforts to harness their ability to guard against obesity. To address that issue, scientists developed a brown fat detection method and it worked in an . This proof-of-concept study is published today in Nature Communications.

"Brown adipose tissue, responsible for , has high importance in the context of . Brown fat is more common in children but has recently been discovered in adult humans. However, measurement of its body distribution has remained technically challenging. We report a peptide probe that zeroes in on brown fat and can be used for localization of this tissue in mice by whole body imaging," said Mikhail Kolonin, Ph.D., the study's senior author and associate professor at the UTHealth Center for Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine. He receives support from a John S. Dunn Research Scholar Fund and is holder of the Jerold B. Katz Distinguished Professorship in Stem Cell Research at UTHealth.

If this brown fat detection strategy proves effective in clinical trials, it could allow doctors to personalize treatments based on the ratio of brown fat to white fat of their patients. Further, it might help monitor stimulation of brown fat through prospective therapies.

"This is the first targeted imaging approach for the detection of brown fat," Kolonin said.

Kolonin teamed up with UTHealth medical imaging researcher Eva Sevick-Muraca, Ph.D., to develop a near-infrared fluorescence imaging probe that binds to brown adipose vasculature and emits tiny amounts of skin-penetrating light that can be picked up by highly sensitive cameras. Sevick-Muraca is professor, director of the Center for Molecular Imaging and holder of the Nancy and Rich Kinder Distinguished Chair in Cardiovascular Disease Research at UTHealth.

The probe is a peptide comprised of a series of amino acids. Kolonin's team tested numerous combinations before finding one that selectively localizes to brown fat when administered intravenously. Sevick-Muraca's team coupled the peptide with a dye that could be picked up during whole body scans.

More information: "A peptide probe for targeted brown adipose tissue imaging" Nature Communications, 2013. www.nature.com/ncomms/2013/130… full/ncomms3472.html

Related Stories

Some fat cells can feel the cold

date Jul 02, 2013

(Medical Xpress)—To survive in cold environments, mammals burn fat to produce heat. The breakdown of fat helps prevent obesity and related metabolic diseases, such as diabetes. Bruce Spiegelman and his colleagues at Harvard ...

Conversion from bad fat to good fat

date Apr 28, 2013

Scientists from ETH Zurich in Switzerland have shown for the first time that brown and white fat cells in a living organism can be converted from one cell type to the other. Their work, using mice as a model organism, provides ...

Recommended for you

Breathless: How blood-oxygen levels regulate air intake

date 3 hours ago

Researchers have unraveled the elusive process by which small, highly vascular clusters of sensory cells in the carotid arteries "taste the blood," as a 1926 essay put it—the initial step in regulating ...

Sex matters ... even for liver cells

date 4 hours ago

Female liver cells, and in particular those in menopaused women, are more susceptible to adverse effects of drugs than their male counterparts, according to new research carried out by the JRC. It is well ...

Caring for blindness: A new protein in sight?

date 5 hours ago

Vasoproliferative ocular diseases are responsible for sight loss in millions of people in the industrialised countries. Many patients do not currently respond to the treatment offered, which targets a specific ...

When genes are expressed in reverse

date 5 hours ago

Genes usually always be expressed as in Western writing: from left to right on the white canvas of our DNA. So when we speak of the activity of our genome, in fact we are referring to the expression of genes ...

Technique could speed biologic drugs

date 10 hours ago

Antibodies are specific molecules that can lock onto a particular cellular structure to start, stop or otherwise temper a biological process. Because they are so specific, antibodies are at the forefront ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.