Scientists have discovered a molecular pathway called mTORC1 that controls the conversion of unhealthy white fat into beige fat. The team, led by researchers from University of Texas at San Antonio, also found that a protein, Grb10, serves as the on-off switch for mTORC1 signalling and the ‘beigeing’ of fat.

"We know that if we want to keep our body lean, we have to get rid of extra nutrients in the body, which means burning more energy," said senior author Feng Liu from University of Texas.

"Understanding how beigeing is controlled is important because if we can improve energy expenditure, we can reduce obesity," Liu explained. Grb10 is stimulated by cold stress, which causes the body to burn energy.

"Normally when we eat something, we store it in white fat," explained co-author Lily Dong.

For the extra food we eat, it is better to release it, not store it. "So finding a way to turn the white fat into ‘beige’ and burn the energy that normally we store would have high therapeutic potential for the treatment of obesity and its related diseases," he added.

The finding could pave the way for the development of novel diabetes and obesity drugs, scientists noted.

The study was published in the journal Cell Metabolism.


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