New source of fat tissue stem cells discovered

May 9, 2014, European Society of Endocrinology

Researchers have found a new source of stem cells that produce fat tissue, findings presented today at the European Congress of Endocrinology in Wrocław, Poland, show. This unique in vitro human stem cell model of brown fat tissue could aid studies into how fat tissue develops and the development of new anti-obesity drugs.

There are two types of found in humans: (WAT) that accumulates lipids, and (BAT) that can burn lipids to produce heat. BAT is mainly found in babies, although recent studies show that adults may retain a small amount of BAT. BAT is considered important in obesity research as it represents a potential pathway by which the body can control metabolism by burning excess lipids to produce heat. Previously there have been no in vitro human models to aid research into BAT .

A team from the University of Florence in Italy studied patients with a rare tumour called pheochromocytoma. This tumour is found in the adrenal glands and causes the release of excess levels of the hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline. The team removed tumours from eight patients and examined the fat tissue that surrounded them. They found that, in addition to the WAT present in healthy people, pheochromocytoma patients also had some tissue with molecular markers for BAT cells present.

From this tissue, the team isolated and characterized brown adipose and compared their properties to precursor WAT cells from the same patient. Using gene expression analysis, immunophenotyping and differentiation tools, they found the two cell types had different properties, in particular in their potential to differentiate into BAT cells, thus indicating a different developmental pathway for the two types of fat cell.

"This is an exciting discovery," said Professor Michaela Luconi, who led the research. "Obesity is now a huge, worldwide health issue and we urgently need new treatment strategies to tackle it. Brown has long been seen as a potential target for new anti-obesity treatments as it is able to control metabolic rate and burn excess fat molecules."

"Our research has characterized the first in vitro human model for brown adipose stem cells from a novel source. Our theory is that the excess adrenaline produced by this rare tumour may have induced the expansion of the brown adipose stem cell component present in this depot of white adipose tissue. We now need to carry out further work to see if this theory is correct and whether the process can be reproduced in the lab."

The team are currently unable to produce mature BAT cells from the brown adipose stem cells, but now plan to study how they can improve this differentiation process. "This model has huge potential to allow us to learn more about how different types of fat cell develop", said Professor Luconi. "Greater understanding of this process will aid us in designing and testing specific anti-obesity drugs targeting white to brown cells conversion."

Explore further: Scientists advance understanding of human brown adipose tissue and grow new cells (w/ Video)

Related Stories

Scientists advance understanding of human brown adipose tissue and grow new cells (w/ Video)

April 22, 2013
Joslin scientists report significant findings about the location, genetic expression and function of human brown adipose tissue (BAT) and the generation of new BAT cells. These findings, which appear in the April 2013 issue ...

Team finds mechanism that regulates production of energy-burning brown fat

March 13, 2013
Joslin scientists have discovered a mechanism that regulates the production of brown fat, a type of fat which plays an important role in heat production and energy metabolism. The findings, which appear in the upcoming issue ...

Drug boosts fat tissue's calorie-burning ability in lab

June 17, 2013
A drug that mimics the activity of thyroid hormone significantly increases the amount of energy burned by fat tissue and promotes weight loss, an animal study of metabolism finds. The results were presented Sunday at The ...

Researchers distinguish subcutaneous from visceral fat stem cells using specific cell markers

February 20, 2014
Scientists from A*STAR's Singapore Bioimaging Consortium (SBIC) led in the discovery that two little-known fat cell markers have huge potential to assist researchers to further their understanding of fats. The discovery was ...

Researchers identify specific causes of brown fat cell 'whitening'

April 9, 2014
Boston University researchers have learned new information about the consequences of overeating high-calorie foods. Not only does this lead to an increase in white fat cell production, the type prominent in obesity, but it ...

Recommended for you

Artificial intelligence quickly and accurately diagnoses eye diseases and pneumonia

February 22, 2018
Using artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques, researchers at Shiley Eye Institute at UC San Diego Health and University of California San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues in China, Germany and Texas, ...

Gut microbes protect against sepsis—mouse study

February 22, 2018
Sepsis occurs when the body's response to the spread of bacteria or toxins to the bloodstream damages tissues and organs. The fight against sepsis could get a helping hand from a surprising source: gut bacteria. Researchers ...

Breakthrough could lead to better drugs to tackle diabetes and obesity

February 22, 2018
Breakthrough research at Monash University has shown how different areas of major diabetes and obesity drug targets can be 'activated', guiding future drug development and better treatment of diseases.

Iron triggers dangerous infection in lung transplant patients, study finds

February 21, 2018
Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have identified elevated tissue iron as a risk factor for life-threatening fungal infections in lung transplant recipients.

Neuroimaging reveals lasting brain deficits in iron-deficient piglets

February 21, 2018
Iron deficiency in the first four weeks of a piglet's life - equivalent to roughly four months in a human infant - impairs the development of key brain structures, scientists report. The abnormalities remain even after weeks ...

Products derived from plants offer potential as dual-targeting agents for experimental cerebral malaria

February 21, 2018
Malaria, a life-threatening disease usually caused when parasites from the Plasmodium family enter the bloodstream of a person bitten by a parasite-carrying mosquito, is a severe health threat globally, with 200 to 300 million ...

0 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.