Scientists believe that they've found a new weapon (read - clinical procedure)to wage the obesity/diabetes battle: control blood vessel development to keep body fat amounts in check.
As the growth of fat cells and their metabolism depend on oxygen and blood-borne nutrients, one possible way to regulate the amount of body fat for fighting obesity, can therefore be to affect the development of blood vessels in the adipose tissue.
In their study, researchers at Karolinska Institutet exposed mice to low temperatures and found that the animals developed more blood vessels in their adipose tissue and were able to metabolise body fat more quickly.
They also showed that the adipose tissue transformed from 'white' fat to 'brown' fat, which has higher metabolic activity and which breaks down more quickly.
"This is the first time it's been shown that blood vessel growth affects the metabolic activity of adipose tissue rather than vice versa. If we can learn how to regulate the development of blood vessels in humans, we'd open up new therapeutic avenues for obesity and metabolic diseases like diabetes," said Professor Yihai Cao, who led the study.
Brown fat releases heat when it breaks down, and is mainly found in hibernating animals.
In humans, it is found in newborn babies, but scientists believe that by controlling blood vessel development it might be possible to transform white fat to brown fat in adults as well.