A new way to lose fat, gain it, and even turn it into medicine
Posted 12.01.2006 at 3:00 am
Under the microscope: human fat cells
- One-Shot Fat Fix
Want to fight fat? Eat less, exercise more-and get vaccinated. A fat vaccine is in the works at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, where tests have led to leaner lab rats. The trick is blocking ghrelin, a hormone that slows down the body´s metabolism. The vaccine triggers the immune system to release antibodies that attack the hormone, enabling you to burn more fat. But don´t pass the holiday ham just yet. Human trials are several years away.
Hot ´n´ Heavy
Staying warm and cozy could catch up with your waistline. Spending too much time in a thermoneutral zone-a range of temperatures where the body doesn´t have to work to keep warm or cool-means that you´ll burn even fewer calories when idle.
Climate control is one of several new explanations offered up by scientists at the University of Alabama at Birmingham for America´s ever-thickening lipid layer. Lack of sleep and quitting smoking also made the list.
Fat into Muscle
Inside every fat cell there´s a muscle cell trying to get out. UCLA scientists have transformed stem cells from adipose tissue (courtesy of liposuction patients) into smooth muscle-the kind that lines arteries and intestines, not the skeletal muscle in the biceps. The bad news for beer guts is good news for medicine: Fat stem cells may have organ-repair applications. And with its abundant supply, fat provides a politically agreeable stem-cell fix.