RESEARCHERS have shown that they can engineer mouse and human cells to produce brown fat, the 'good fat' which spurs the body to burn calories.
This could pave the way for developing new ways of treating obesity and diabetes.
The work was done by researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, a leading cancer research and care centre in the United States, and reported online in the journal Nature.
They identified both parts of a molecular switch that normally causes some immature muscle cells in the embryo to become brown fat cells, said the institute in a statement.
The scientists showed that they could manipulate the switch to force other types of cells to produce brown fat, known as brown adipose tissue (BAT). They then transplanted these synthetic brown fat precursors, known as eBAT (engineered BAT), into adult mice.
Tests showed that the brown fat transplants were burning calories at a high rate.
The energy would otherwise have been stored as fat in white adipose tissue - the more predominant 'bad fat'.
Excess caloric energy in the diet is stored in white fat calls that accumulate in the body.
And obese people face higher risk of ailments such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Brown fat, on the other hand, evolved to protect animals from cold and prevent obesity.
Brown fat cells have a large supply of mitochondria - tiny power plants that use oxygen to burn sugar from the diet to generate heat, rather than store the energy as fat.
'Since brown fat cells have very high capacity to dissipate excess energy and counteract obesity, eBAT has a very high potential for treating obesity,' said Dr Shingo Kajimura, lead author of the paper.
'We are currently working on this.'
Until recently, scientists believed that brown fat played an important role in keeping infants warm but was mostly gone or inactive by adulthood.
Now, studies have shown that some of the good fat remains in adults, mainly in the neck and chest areas.
[Great! So they raise brown fat in people so they will burn off calories. But the Brown fat does this literally by converting excess energy into heat, these people will contribute to global warming!!!]