Obesity is the main cause of type-2 diabetes and associated chronic illnesses. It is estimated that chronic illness will kill more people around the globe this year than the coronavirus. How are you managing coronavirus and diabetes? Is there a progress in scientific development and medical advances? Yes, scientists now show proof of concept that transplanted brown fat cells treat obesity and diabetes. According to the study led by Yu-Hua Tseng, genetically modified fat cells show evidence of potential therapy.

Human fat cells consist of white and brown tissues (WAT and BAT). WAT store energy and BAT burn energy. In the process, BAT can lower excessive levels of lipids and glucose in the blood which leads to metabolic changes like diabetes. Obese people tend to have less BAT. 

Transplanted Brown Fat Cells – the Research

Researchers took developmental-stage human white fat cells and genetically modified them to act like UCP1 that triggers white fat cells to develop into brown fat cells. The transplanted brown fat cells were tested on mice with a poor immune system. The genetically modified WAT functioned very much like the mice’s own brown fat cells. The researchers compared the transplanted fat cells with the mice’s original white fat cells. 

Mice with transplanted brown fat cells developed more sensitivity to insulin and were able to clear glucose from the blood. Additionally, mice with these transplanted cells put on less weight. “Cells in different tissues communicate with each other,” Tseng said. “In this case, we found that our transplanted cells secrete a molecule called nitric oxide, which is carried by red blood cells to the endogenous brown cells and activates those cells.

If this technique continues to show progress in the pre-clinical trial, it might be possible to generate this type of cell for individual patients. The procedure would involve the removal of white fat cells from the patients and transplanting. 

However, the individual procedure may be complicated and expensive. “Employing cell-based or gene therapies to treat obesity or type 2 diabetes used to be science fiction,” Tseng said. “Now scientific advances, such as CRISPR gene-editing technologies, will help us to improve the metabolism, the body weight, the quality of life, and the overall health of people with obesity and diabetes.

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