A recent U.S. study has found ways to fight the obesity and diabetes epidemics. Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center have found that baby fat cells formed are at or before birth. These cells live inside the blood vessels that nourish fat deposits. These cells wait there to form new fat. Researchers articulated that eating excess calories may activate the cells, which leave their hiding places inside the walls of the blood vessels.
In this study, researchers genetically engineered mice so that cells that produced a large amount of a fat-regulating hormone called PPAR-gamma would glow green. This took researchers 5 years to figure out this method.
Researchers looked in fat deposits, inside the blood vessel walls, where some experts had guessed fat cells may originate. Some green-glowing cells were in there, and when taken out, they matured into fat cells. Researchers found out that these immature cells, called progenitor cells, appear to be formed at or before birth.
Lead researcher, Dr. Jonathan Graff said, "They're not just attached to the vessel wall, they're an integral part of it."
He added that the cells can react to compounds in the blood, including nutrients like glucose. Perhaps they drift out of the vessel walls when they sense enough glucose, which in turn signals that the body is taking in more calories than it needs and should store some as fat.
Graff said that it may be possible to remove immature cells from a patient's own fat and use them to grow natural grafts, for example, for a woman after breast cancer surgery. Cosmetic purposes might include plumping out lips or wrinkles. Such cells may be useful for the field of regenerative medicine.
Research team also tested the cells' response to diabetes drugs known as thiazolidinediones.
Researchers found that the progenitor cells matured into fat cells when treated with glitazone drugs. Researchers added that this could help in explaining how the drugs fight type-2 diabetes, which occurs when the body loses its ability to use insulin to convert food to fuel.
Graff said, "We know that skinnier fat cells send out good signals and fatter fat cells send out bad signals. TZDs alter them so that they are more insulin-sensitive."
Researchers believe that manipulation of these fat cells offers an important potential for obesity and diabetes. Researchers hoped that in future it might be possible to remove these fat cells and than use them as tissue grafts or transplants to cure disease or repair injuries.