Brown fat, already known as a super calorie burner,’ could also be a key to treating Type 2 diabetes, study shows

Better understanding brown fat could lead to future ways of treating obesity and type 2 diabetes, Abby Phillip reports for The Washington Post.

A recent study published in The Journal of Cell Biology found that brown fat cells are not only great “super calorie burners,” burning calories as they help keep the body warm in cold temperatures, but are also a “super vacuum,” producing a substance that sucks up excess glucose in the blood and transports that sugar into the brown fat cells, where it can be burned to produce heat, Phillip writes.

For people with type 2 diabetes, whose bodies do not use insulin properly and as a result have high blood glucose levels, these findings could lead to new drugs that can activate brown cells and reduce blood glucose levels without insulin, Phillip reports.

“If you can start the tissue to burn and produce heat, then you can actually in a way take away excess glucose in the blood,” Tore Bengtsson, one of the study’s authors told Phillip. “Now we actually understand how this production of these glucose transporters work.”

Kentucky has the fifth-highest incidence of diabetes and obesity among all the states, with almost one in five Kentuckians diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes and one in three adults in considered obese. Obesity can lead to the development of Type 2 diabetes.

“The implication of this is normally when you have Type 2 diabetes you have to inject insulin to reduce your blood sugar levels,” Bengtsson told the Post. “However you could make a medicine which is not based on insulin signalling. It’s a completely new pathway that can be targeted for taking up glucose in the blood.”

Bengtsson told the newspaper “that he is working on the next step in the research — looking for specific ways of activating the cells, which will be crucial for the development of new drugs.”

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