Scientists have discovered a molecular pathway that is responsible for the conversion of white fat to beige fat.

University of Texas Health Science researchers found a protein called Grb10, which is the switch for mTORC1 signaling and the conversion of white fat into beige. The protein is fueled by cold stress that makes the body burn more energy.

"We know that if we want to keep our body lean, we have to get rid of extra nutrients in the body, which means burning more energy," said lead researcher and professor of pharmacology Feng Liu from the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio and the Metabolic Syndrome Research Center at Xiangya Second Hospital in China. "Understanding how beigeing is controlled is so very important because if we can improve energy expenditure, we can reduce obesity." One of the important metabolism regulators are fat tissues and excessive white adipose tissue results in obesity and chronic conditions, including type 2 diabetes.

When an individual eats, the food is stored in white fat, but extra food consumed is better released, not stored. To treat obesity and other related diseases, scientists should find a way to convert white fat to beige fat and burn the calories that are normally stored. The mTORC1 pathway is associated with cardiovascular diseases, aging and cancer; that's why identifying the protein, Grb10, that serves as the on-off switch for mTORC1 in signaling when to "beige" fat would be very helpful in research for other fields. The research finding could open ways to develop new drugs to treat obesity and diabetes.

Obesity is increased body fat. While an obese person is overweight, an overweight person is not necessarily obese. Obesity is measured through the Body Mass Index (BMI), which is calculated by dividing a person's height by weight. If a person's BMI is over 30, he is considered obese.

Obesity is a global concern. Though the number of obese people is significantly higher in developed nations, obesity is also increaseing in developing countries.

Currently, there are 160 million obese or overweight Americans. Nations in the Middle East, North Africa, Central America and the Pacific and Caribbean islands also are showing high rates of obesity. Australia had one of the highest spikes, becoming 25th in ranking behind the United States and ahead of Finland, Japan, France and Germany. Obesity is associated with heart diseases, diabetes, stroke and hypertension. Obesity ranks fifth in the highest risk for deaths worldwide, with about 2.8 million people dying every year because of it.

The study was published in the journal Cell Metabolism. 

ⓒ 2021 All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.