OCT 29, 2019 3:12 PM PDT

The Different Signals Sent by Brown and White Fat

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Not all body fat is the same; there are two kinds. White fat is located around the hips, thighs, and stomach and acts as an insulator and energy reserve that our body can tap into when there’s not enough food. It’s considered an endocrine tissue because it can produce signals in the form of molecules including enzymes and hormones like leptin, and influences the impact of insulin. The other kind, brown fat, acts differently from white fat. It resides near the spine, around the throat, and by the kidneys. Brown fat can also store energy, but it releases heat. Infants have more brown fat than adults as it’s critical to maintain their body temperature.

Studies have investigated the role of white fat and how it’s connected to disease. But recently, attention has turned to brown fat and how it may be beneficial to health. If a body carries more brown fat, it can help burn energy.

An international team of scientists has now learned more about the molecules that brown fat releases. In a first, they have mapped the secretory signals that are sent by white and brown fat in human adults. Reporting in Cell Metabolism, they learned that these two kinds of fats are sending very different messages to the body.

"It's the first time that anyone has studied human brown fat at this level of detail. We have mapped all of the proteins that are secreted from the fat cells and that they use to communicate with other cells. And there are big differences between them. It's as though they speak very different languages," said Associate Professor Camilla Schéele from the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research (CBMR).

In this study, the research team used mass spectrometry to identify the proteins that the two kinds of fat release. They determined that brown fat can secrete over one hundred proteins that white fat does not release. Brown fat has a bigger influence on the immune system, and white fat plays a role in tissue plasticity.

"One of the great mysteries about brown fat is that we are not sure how it is formed. But we have found an interesting clue. One of the proteins that brown fat secretes plays an important role in developing and maturing new brown fat cells to prepare them for producing heat and energy," explained Schéele.

The scientists now want to learn more about how the signals sent by the fat are affecting the rest of the body, including the brain.

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via University of Copenhagen, Cell Metabolism

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
SEP 15, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Autism Spectrum Disorder Biomarker is Discovered
SEP 15, 2020
Autism Spectrum Disorder Biomarker is Discovered
Scientists may have identified a biomarker for autism spectrum disorder, which can be difficult to differentiate from ot ...
SEP 08, 2020
Neuroscience
Synchronizing Brain Waves Could Help Dyslexia Effects
SEP 08, 2020
Synchronizing Brain Waves Could Help Dyslexia Effects
New research from the University of Geneva shows that adults with dyslexia can read more fluently with a non-invasive el ...
OCT 04, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Why the Effects of a Drug Depend on Who Takes It
OCT 04, 2020
Why the Effects of a Drug Depend on Who Takes It
Many drugs can have a wide range of impacts on the patients that take them; doctors often have to adjust a person's dosa ...
OCT 14, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Robots Are Moving Developmental Biology Forward
OCT 14, 2020
Robots Are Moving Developmental Biology Forward
Researchers have created a robot that can analyze the effects of mutations that occur in portions of the genome that hel ...
OCT 07, 2020
Neuroscience
Biocompatible Gel Restores Sciatic Nerve Function in Rats
OCT 07, 2020
Biocompatible Gel Restores Sciatic Nerve Function in Rats
Video: Explains poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid), a hydrogel biopolymer that is a similar concept to the new hydrogel built ...
OCT 25, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Revealing More About the Genetics of Ewing Sarcoma
OCT 25, 2020
Revealing More About the Genetics of Ewing Sarcoma
Ewing sarcoma is a rare kind of cancer that tends to impact young people and occurs in bones or the tissue around them. ...
Loading Comments...