People who want to lose weight often encounter boundaries: No matter what diet they try, the pounds won't drop. Being overweight and obese can have severe health consequences, and has shown to increase a person's chance of developing type-2-diabetes or cardiovascular diseases.
Brown fat cells can burn fat to generate heat. Researchers have discovered a new method to measure the activity of brown fat cells in humans and mice. The researchers showed in Nature Communications that microRNA-92a can be used as an indirect measure for the activity of energy consuming brown fat cells. They showed that a small blood sample was sufficient.
miRNAs are known to be responsible for the regulation of genes. The researchers showed for the first time that brown fat cells deliver these microRNAs into the blood by packaging into so-called exosomes, which "can be seen as little packages that are delivered by the brown fat cells through the circulation." Howeveto whom the packages are delivered is yet unknown.
Many miRNAs were investigated during the investigation. miR-92a is present in human and mice - importantly - this microRNA is related to brown fat activity. Whenever miR-92a is low in circulation, people can burn a lot of energy with brown fat.
To prove the connection in humans, scientists tested 41 participants from Finland and the Netherlands. "We found a significant relation between brown fat activity and miR-92a that needs to be proven in larger cohorts," said co-first author. Measuring miR-92a would allow for a much more accurate measure of the brown fat activity.
"miR-92a seems to be a promising biomarker to test new drugs in the field of weight reduction or transition from white-to-brown fat in humans; this promising biomarker should be tested in larger cohorts" said the senior author. This new method might enable advances in obesity research and related fields.
A new method to measure the activity of energy consuming brown fat cells
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