News Release

New discovery opens doors to manipulating fat production in the body

New research in The FASEB Journal suggests that combining bone marrow or stem cell transplant technology with genetic engineering could result in tailor made fat storing cells with desirable functions

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

Move over diet and exercise, a new weight control method is in the works and it involves manipulating the production of fat cells at their source. A new research report published in the March 2016 issue of The FASEB Journal shows that at least some human fat cells are actually produced from stem cells that originate in bone marrow. As a result, scientists hope to one-day manipulate the type or quantity of fat cells created to ultimately reduce the risk of diseases impacted by the prevalence of unhealthy fat, such as cardiovascular disease, types 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, asthma, pulmonary hypertension, gall bladder disease, kidney disease, some cancers, and perhaps obesity itself.

"Our study suggests that it may be the type of fat-storing cells produced in our bodies that determines risk for disease, rather than the amount of fat," said Dwight J. Klemm, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, Colorado. "This paradigm highlights the possibility of new strategies to prevent and reverse fat-related chronic disease by controlling the production of different types of fat-storing cells."

To make their discovery, Klemm and colleagues recruited human subjects who received bone marrow transplants for clinical reasons from a different human donor many months before the study. A small sample of fat tissue was removed from just under the skin next to the belly button. The DNA from the fat cells in the tissue sample was evaluated to determine if it came from the person who donated the bone marrow or the transplant recipient. They found the presence of donor DNA, which indicated that some of the fat cells had grown from cells that originated in the transplanted bone marrow. Previous research with mice indicates that fat-storing cells produced from bone marrow stem cells may be particularly harmful because they produce substances that promote inflammation and hinder the ability of other cells to respond to insulin.

"This research may help unravel many of the mysteries associated with weight gain, weight loss, and the effects that excessive fat has on the body," said Thoru Pederson, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "The more we learn about this interesting discovery, the closer we are toward shutting down the harmful effects of fat cells at the source."


Receive monthly highlights from The FASEB Journal by e-mail. Sign up at The FASEB Journal is published by the Federation of the American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). It is the world's most cited biology journal according to the Institute for Scientific Information and has been recognized by the Special Libraries Association as one of the top 100 most influential biomedical journals of the past century.

FASEB is composed of 30 societies with more than 125,000 members, making it the largest coalition of biomedical research associations in the United States. Its mission is to advance health and welfare by promoting progress and education in biological and biomedical sciences through service to our member societies and collaborative advocacy.

Details: Kathleen M. Gavin, Jonathan A. Gutman, Wendy M. Kohrt, Qi Wei, Karen L. Shea, Heidi L. Miller, Timothy M. Sullivan, Paul F. Erickson, Karen M. Helm, Alistaire S. Acosta, Christine R. Childs, Evelyn Musselwhite, Marileila Varella-Garcia, Kimberly Kelly, Susan M. Majka, and Dwight J. Klemm. De novo generation of adipocytes from circulating progenitor cells in mouse and human adipose tissue. FASEB J. March 2016 30:1096-1108; doi:10.1096/fj.15-278994 ; Early Online version: November 18, 2015. Final version: March 1, 2016.

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