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Inflammation enzyme regulates production of brown fat tissue

October 18, 2015

Previous studies by researchers from Finland suggest that in humans, too, the activity, i.e. heat production of brown fat tissue can be stimulated by regular stays in the cold. Stephan Herzig now plans to investigate whether COX-2 also plays the biochemical key role here. Since the formation of brown fat cells can also be stimulated in the culture dish, Herzig sees a possibility for practical use of his results. His vision is to take white fat tissue from severely obese individuals, to stimulate the formation of brown fat cells using prostaglandins in the culture dish, and then transplant them back to the patient. Thus it would be possible to help people by boosting their energy metabolism and thus making weight loss easier. Scientists estimate that a small amount of about 50 grams of brown fat tissue would be sufficient to increase a person's energy metabolism by 20 percent. This would be equal to a reduction of body weight by 20 kilograms over a period of one year.

Clinical trials with cancer patients have already indirectly revealed that COX-2 has an influence on body weight. Thus, the body weight of patients suffering from severe cancer-related wasting stabilized due to COX-2 inhibiting drugs. But a number of common pain relievers also act by inhibiting COX-2. Does that mean that users have to accept weight gain as a side effect? Herzig has good news: "So far, we have found no evidence suggesting that one has to fear gaining weight from taking these drugs."

Source: Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres