Flab in the Lab

A new way to lose fat, gain it, and even turn it into medicine

Under the microscope: human fat cells

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. 3. **

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.