It can be very difficult for people who struggle with their weight to finally shed the pounds. Diet and exercise is tried and true, but it also can take a long time for people to find the right balance to actually lose weight. Lap band and gastric bypass surgeries can also have mixed results and often are not the miracle cure that many hope that they will be. However, researchers from Harvard Medical School may be on to a treatment that will help people overcome obesity and lower their risk for diabetes in one fell swoop. In a treatment that may defy logic at first sight, it involves a fat transplant.
There are two main types of fat in the body: brown fat and white fat. White fat increases body mass and is responsible for weight gain. Large stores of brown fat, on the other hand, are associated with a lower body mass index and keep us warm when the weather is cold.
Researchers conducted a study on mice in order to determine whether transplanting brown fat tissues from the animals with the largest stores of it would help overweight mice become thinner. They suspected that one of three things would happen. The body would act the way it was intended, burning more fat and clearing excess glucose from the bloodstream; the body would reject the foreign fat deposits; or the brown fat would become white fat.
In order to test the theory, scientists made some 12-week-old mice fat by feeding them a high-calorie, high-fat diet. Then the researchers transplanted a tiny portion of brown fat - either .1 grams or .4 grams - from thin mice into the abdomens of the chubby mice, right on top of their abdomen fat. These mice were tested against two control groups who received either a glass bead or a transplant of white fat.
Twelve weeks afterwards, all three groups consumed the same diet. Compared with the other groups, the mice who received the brown fat deposit weighed less and their bodies burned more calories. The heart, white fat, and brown fat also became better at glucose uptake, which would help lower a person's risk for diabetes. The study suggests that the brown fat must work with interleukin-6, an immune system protein that is integral to the body's metabolism.
The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.