Burning brown fat has long been tipped as a potential way of improving metabolism to treat diseases such as obesity and other metabolic syndromes.
Adult bodies hold small deposits of brown fat, typically around the shoulders and neck. When it burns it generates heat without shivering in a process called thermogenesis which burns calories in itself.
The process is generally triggered by cold temperatures but a search has been ongoing to find a way of activating it to improve metabolism.
And now a team of international researchers has made a major breakthrough.
They’ve managed to establish that beta2-adrenergic receptors in brown fat are what set the thermogenesis process in motion, which is a huge leap forward in the search for therapeutic interventions.
Associate Professor Camilla Schéele of the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research who was involved in the study said: "Activation of brown fat burns calories, improves insulin sensitivity and even affects appetite regulation.
“Our data reveals a previously unknown key to unlocking these functions in humans, which would potentially be of great gain for people living with obesity or type 2 diabetes."
Plans for the next phase of the research are set to begin in the autumn. This will involve using drugs to specifically target the receptors and determine how effectively they are able to burn energy and fat in humans.
From there, the scientists could move into trials on sufferers of type 2 diabetes.
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