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May 15, 2020

Fat Findings

A discovery that different kinds of white fat cells may each play different roles in obesity, diabetes and other diseases.

Credit: National Science Foundation/Karson Productions

Fat–finding tour

I'm Bob Karson with the Discovery Files, from the National Science Foundation.

Excess white fat. It can cause obesity and is linked to diabetes and other conditions. But not all white fat is born equal. Studies in mice (Sound effect: mice sounds) have shown there are several kinds. Now researchers at Joslin (joss-lin) Diabetes Center and Boston University have discovered different types of white fat cells in humans (Sound effect: whaaat?) -- sometimes within the same part of the body. And they may be different enough that some varieties might predispose you to disease while others may not.

Within fat tissue, cells evolve from would-be fat cells into mature, full-fledged fat cells. As they do, the RNA molecules produced by the fat cells change. Researchers used special technology to examine the patterns in these changes and how they vary between cells and used new kinds of data analysis to understand the patterns. Result? The team ID'd two sub-types of white fat. One apparent difference: How much glucose they take in.

Further research on these differences could help lead to new therapies for diabetes and obesity and for understanding risk factors for Fatty Liver Disease and Atherosclerosis. Even diseases increased by obesity, such as Cancer and Alzheimer's.

So, there's the skinny -- on fat.

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