Yale study reveals origins of body fat

Yale University School of Medicine researchers might have answered an age-old question: Where did all that fat come from?

In a paper published online today in the journal Nature Cell Biology,researchers identify specific cell types that eventually morph into white adipocytes — the cells most people recognize as fat.

The increase of fat cells in obesity is particularly problematic because once established the cells are difficult to eliminate. However, surprising little is known about how fat cells first form. According to a press release put out by Yale, study co-authors Matthew Rodeheffer, assistant professor of comparative medicine and molecular, cellular, and developmental biology, and a researcher at the Yale Stem Cell Center and Ryan Berry of Yale attacked the problem by isolating cells from fat and studying which cells could turn into fat cells, via a process known as differentiation. They successfully identified cells with certain types of receptors that could in fact become fat cells. The new study in mice confirmed that cells with these specific receptors on their surface are the precursors that create fat cells in the body.

Rodeheffer said it is now possible to study how these cells behave under different conditions, such as exercise, dieting, or overeating. The researchers hope to discover what causes the precursors to make new fat cells in obesity — and one day potentially block their creation.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Amanda Cuda