Burning More Energy, Naturally

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Scientists say they’ve engineered mouse and human cells to make more “brown fat” — the stuff the body uses to convert stored fat into heat. They hope this finding can lead to a simple new obesity treatment.

Brown fat is one of the body’s natural defenses against cold, and also against obesity, since it burns off the better-known “white fat.” In a study published this week in Nature online, researchers gave mice some synthetic brown-fat precursors, developed in the lab. Those mice then turned the transplanted tissue into more of their own energy-burning brown fat. Further tests showed that the new tissue was indeed burning calories — and fast.

So far the fat-burning power has only been tested in mice and not in living humans. But the transplantation technique “has a very high potential for treating obesity,” according to a statement from lead author Shingo Kajimura. As with any experiment in mice alone, of course, a widespread human application is probably years off if it ever comes at all. But a shot of brown fat sure sounds like more fun than stomach-stapling.