A recent study has proved that manipulating autophagy - a cellular process which regulates the formation and inter-conversion of white fat cells and brown fat cells in mice - could solve the problem of obesity.
According to recent data, the more brown fat cells a person has the lower their body mass-a finding that contradicts with the belief that the more white fat cells a person has the greater their body mass.
It has been suggested that manipulating the development of fat cells so that they become brown fat cells rather than white fat cells might be an approach to treat obesity.
However, before developing such an approach, researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, wanted to learn about the mechanisms regulating the formation, expansion, and interconversion of these two cell types.
In the new research, Mark Czaja and colleagues have now identified that autophagy regulates the formation of the distinct fat cell types in mice.
Specifically, in mice with fat cells unable to perform autophagy, there were fewer white fat cells and more brown fat cells than normal.
In fact, these mice were leaner than normal.
Thus, the authors concluded that autophagy has a critical role in determining the type of fat cell formed and suggest that this information might provide a new avenue to explore for those looking to develop therapies to treat obesity.