News Release

Scientists uncover a potential approach to combat obesity in those prone to weight gain

Stimulating energy consumption in a fatty tissue, known as 'brown fat,' can improve weight-management and glucose control in a mouse model of metabolic syndrome

Peer-Reviewed Publication

European Association for the Study of the Liver

April 15, 2016, Barcelona, Spain: For the first time scientists have kick-started the natural process by which genetically predisposed obese mice gain weight, opening up a new potential approach to fight off obesity. The study that was presented today at The International Liver CongressTM in Barcelona, Spain suggests that impaired brown adipose tissue (BAT), otherwise known as ‘brown fat’, drives obesity, and by stimulating heat production in this fatty tissue, weight-management and glucose tolerance can be improved.

Worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980. In 2014, there were over 600 million people classified as obese, making up 13% of the global population.1 Obesity is now classified as an 'epidemic' by the World Health Organization and immediate action is being called for.2

"The results of our study show that certain cellular impairments found in one's metabolic make-up increases the likelihood of obesity and the associated issues, such as diabetes and high blood pressure," said study lead author, Laurence Poekes, Université Catholique de Louvain, Bruxelles, Belgium. "By intervening to reverse such impairments using a mouse model, we believe effective therapeutic strategies could be developed to combat obesity and associated comorbidities."

In the study, male foz/foz mice were studied as they are prone to developing metabolic syndrome, which is characterised by obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. The foz/foz mice were studied alongside wild-type mice, that do not have the same metabolic predisposition.3 Metabolic syndrome in foz/foz mice was associated to impaired thermogenesis in BAT in response to high fat diet feeding or to cold exposure. This could contribute to lower energy expenditure and increase fat storage.

To stimulate BAT activity in the overweight foz/foz mice, intermittent cold exposure (4°C, 2h/day, 5 days/week), β3-adrenergic agonist treatment (CL-316,243, 1mg/kg/day) and brown adipose tissue (BAT) transplantation from wild type mice were performed.

The results showed that for the foz/foz mice that had stimulated BAT activity, they experienced decreased body weight gain (11g vs 16g, p<0.001) and improved glucose tolerance (p<0.001) compared to untreated foz/foz mice.

"This study uncovers a smart approach that could help the medical community develop effective interventions to address our global population's obesity epidemic," says Professor Tom Hemming Karlssen, EASL Vice-Secretary. "I look forward to seeing this approach further investigated in future research."


About The International Liver Congress™

This annual congress is the biggest event in the EASL calendar, attracting scientific and medical experts from around the world to learn about the latest in liver research. Attending specialists present, share, debate and conclude on the latest science and research in hepatology, working to enhance the treatment and management of liver disease in clinical practice. This year, the congress is expected to attract approximately 10,000 delegates from all corners of the globe. The International Liver Congress™ takes place from April 13 - 17, 2016, at the Fira Barcelona Gran Via, Barcelona, Spain.

About EASL

Since EASL's foundation in 1966, this not-for-profit organisation has grown to over 4,000 members from all over the world, including many of the leading hepatologists in Europe and beyond. EASL is the leading liver association in Europe, having evolved into a major European Association with international influence, with an impressive track record in promoting research in liver disease, supporting wider education and promoting changes in European liver policy.


For more information, please contact the ILC Press Office at:


Telephone: +44 (0)7841 009 252

Onsite location reference

Fatty Liver Disease, Hall 8.0-D1

Friday 15 April 2016, 16:00 - 18:00

Presenter: Laurence Poekes, Belgium

Abstract: PS065, Brown adipose tissue stimulation as a new approach to fight obesity and metabolic syndrome

Author disclosures of interest



1 World Health Organization. Obesity and overweight. Available from: Last accessed: March 2016.

2 World Health Organization. 10 facts about obesity. Available from: Last accessed: March 2016.

3 NHS Choices. Metabolic syndrome. Available from: Last accessed: March 2016.

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