In a recent study entitled, “Pharmacological Activation of Thyroid Hormone Receptors Elicits a Functional Conversion of White to Brown Fat” published in the journal Cell Reports, Dr. Kevin J. Phillips, assistant professor of molecular and cellular biology at Baylor College of Medicine and colleagues were able to determine that brown fat, previously found only in infants as well as in animals, is also found in adults.
White fat cells store a form of fat called triglycerides for energy that play a role in the development of obesity; however, brown fat burns triglycerides. Further understanding how brown fat works could lead to novel weight loss solutions.
In experiments with mice, the team of researchers noted they have discovered a way to turn the “bad” white fat into a brown-like fat. Consequently, these cold-intolerant mice can tolerate lower temperatures since the brown-like fat stimulates the production of heat in the white fat cells. The process that is responsible for turning from white to brown-like fat is conducted through an activation of the thyroid receptor by a synthetic agonist named GC-1.
According to Philips, in previous studies, GC-1 has been examined as a cholesterol-lowering agent, and the rapid weight loss was a noticed side effect of the composite.
“GC-1 dramatically increases metabolic rate by, essentially, converting white fat, which stores excess calories and is associated with obesity and metabolic disease, into a fat that resembles energy-burning brown fat,” Phillips said in a news release.
“We didn’t believe it at first,” he added. “The magnitude of the effect was just too large.”
Phillips and the chemist who developed the composite believe it will be possible to produce a more potent drug with the same effect.
The researchers discovered that in mice genetically prone to obesity, the GC-1 composite was able to alter the expression of certain genes involved in thermogenesis or the production of heat. The findings open up new possibilities for future weight loss experiments. However, the GC-1 composite has not yet been examined in people for weight loss, and Phillips mentioned that without the development of improved small molecules, it might remain difficult to apply the findings as a human weight loss solution.