Pathways that are critical to activating a type of "good" fat, which could lead the fight against obesity and diabetes have been identified by scientists.
The fat, called brown fat, actually burns energy rather than storing it, which the more common white fat does.
The study, which sought to learn more about how to get brown fat cells to grow, identified two molecular pathways that lead to a protein called necdin that blocks brown fat growth.
With this information, researchers can look for ways to modify the steps along the pathways, either to stimulate another protein, which shuts down necdin, or block a different protein, located along the second pathway, which stimulates necdin.
The study showed for the first time that the two proteins can bind directly to the necdin gene.
"This is a very important piece of the puzzle," said Aaron Cypess, MD, PhD an assistant investigator and staff physician at Joslin and lead author of the paper.
"It provides new opportunities. The point is that we have got to learn how to grow these brown fat cells. There's a lot of missing information. We filled in some of the important missing pieces," he added.
The study has been published in the journal Endocrinology.