What makes the ‘Brown fat grown in lab’ so important?

Australian scientists who managed to grow ”brown fat in lab”, call brown fat a wondrous tissue that burns energy to generate heat and help weight loss.

A feat by Australian scientists is being seen as a breakthrough in the field of human weight gain and weight loss. The scientists for the first time in history managed to grow Brown fat in a laboratory.

What makes the ‘Brown fat grown in lab’ news so important?

Australian scientists who managed to grow ”brown fat in lab”, call the brown fat a wondrous tissue. A Tissue that burns energy to generate heat – a breakthrough which they claim could be the latest weapon in the battle against bulge.

To understand the importance of brown fat in weight loss, here is a small comparison between Brown and White Fat.

According to researchers, People tend to be fatter when they have too much “white fat” which is basically an organ of energy storage, whereas brown fat is like a heat generator. Around 50 gm of white fat stores 300 kilo-calories of energy in the body which shows up as bulge. The same amount of brown fat burns 300 kilo-calories a day. If said the other way then the more brown fat a person has the thinner and more energetic he/she will be.

The feat is a breakthrough as very few human adults have brown fat in their bodies.

Brown fat, is especially abundant in newborns of humans/mammals and in hibernating mammals. Its primary function is to generate body heat in animals or newborns that do not shiver. When a baby grows and turns an adult, the brown fat loses its energy generating power, and become more like the white fat cells. But a good thing here is that although the presence of brown fat varies from person to person, precursor cells are present in all adult humans, which under appropriate stimulation can help increase the brown fat in human bodies.

How the Aussie scientists managed to grow Brown fat in laboratory:

The scientists from Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, grew brown fat in culture from stem cells biopsied (a piece of tissue taken from human body) from adults, with the hope that one day it would be possible to grow someone’s brown fat outside the body and then transplant it.

In their laboratory, the scientists, led by Dr Paul Lee and Prof Ken Ho, successfully grew brown fat from the biopsied tissue of six patients, only two of whom had scanned positive for presence of brown fat.

The scientists noted that the research is still an early work, and is just a proof of concept study showing that the growth of brown fat cells is possible in a laboratory. Whether, the same brown sells when transplanted to the human body, can trigger the conversion of white fat present in the body to brown fat, or will it trigger the formation new brown fat is still to be researched on.

But one thing which the researchers can say for sure is that — Regardless of whether or not someone has lots of or little brown fat, the precursor cells are universally present. Under the appropriate growth factor and hormonal stimulation, the cells all grow and differentiate into mature brown fat cells. This makes the future use of ‘brown fat grown in lab’ as a panacea of weight loss a possibility.

In addition, using PET-CT scans of close to 3,000 people, the scientist team also managed to show, beyond doubt that there is striking negative correlation between brown fat and weight. That’s increased quantities of brown fat in the body means lower body weight. Thus people with brown fat had significantly lower body mass indexes as well as lower glucose levels in blood.

Another conclusive finding by the team is that —

in people who are overweight, there may environmental or in the bodily factors that inhibit the growth of brown fat.

The scientists are optimistic about targeting brown fat as an obesity intervention.

The findings have been published in the latest edition of the ‘Endocrinology’ journal.

Why Cardio-vascular Exercises help in Weight loss

We can take encouragement from the above findings which say that –

all humans have brown fat precursor cells in their bodies and in people who are overweight, there may be factors in the environment or in the body that inhibit the growth of brown fat.

In addition, we must remind ourselves that we were brown fat rich when we were babies. We stopped using them as we started shivering to generate heat and keep ourselves warm. Although not experimentally proven, we can assume that the increase in oxygen intake can stimulate the brown fat cells precursors in our bodies. If the assumption proves true in future studies, then may be we will be able to re-activate the dormant brown fat cells. One good way to increase brown fat in our bodies is to start exercising, especially cardio vascular exercises, like aerobics, Yoga etc. The exercise will increase the quantity of oxygen in our blood and it will increase energy production in white cells (which were brown fat cells earlier). We can assume that it will transform them to brown fat cells. 30 minutes of good cardio-vascular exercise 5 days a week is often advised.