Obesity is a common condition in the US, with one in every three Americans being affected by it. And while there are many solutions for tackling obesity, research in the field is still going on as new aspects spring up.
Dr Shu Wang, an associate professor at Texas Tech might have figured out the cure for obesity. Dr Wang is of the opinion that nanotechnology has the potential to prevent, or even reverse obesity. What causes obesity?
Obesity occurs when there’s an increase in adipose tissue, called as fat in lay man’s terms. There are two types of adipose tissue in every mammal. The white tissue is where your body stores energy. The brown tissue helps in producing heat as it releases energy. Both are made of adipocytes, cells designed in way that they can store fat.
Upon ageing, our body tends to become less efficient in using brown fat, or brown tissue. This is typically characterised by slower metabolism accompanied with old age. A sedentary lifestyle, marked by sugary foods and preservatives ultimately results in building up of white fat, a problem that plagues most of the Americans.
“Different from white adipocytes that store fat, the brown or beige adipocytes are considered a ‘metabolic sink’ for fat, glucose and other metabolites,” Wang said. “Beige adipocytes can take up and burn excessive glucose and fat to liberate heat; therefore, they are promising targets for the treatment of obesity and its related metabolic disorders, including insulin resistance, dyslipidemia and cardiovascular disease.”
Previous studies focused on making use of reservatol (a nutrient found in abundance in the skin of some berries and red grapes) as a way to tackle obesity. However, problem arises when reservatol cannot be dissolved in water or body fluid, which makes oral ingestion impractical. It’s often accompanied by chemical alterations in the liver, and is difficult to deliver into the white fat it’s meant to target.
Dr Wang and her team found the solution to this problem by inventing a biodegradable nanoparticle that would contain reservatol. This would make it dissolvable and more effective in targeting white cells, turning them into brown cells.
“Upon stimuli, ASCs can be differentiated into beige adipocytes,” Wang said. “We aim to induce this transformation in the subcutaneous white adipose tissue for the treatment of obesity and obesity-related metabolic disorders, including insulin resistance and hyperlipidemia.”
In a study conducted on animals, the nanoparticles were inserted using an intravenous injection, and they showed browning of white fat. It lead to a 40 per cent decrease in fat stored under the skin, and 50 per cent decrease in fat stored inside the abdomen (visceral fat).
Dr Wang and her team are looking forward to commercialise their discovery and have filed for a patent on the delivery system. If everything goes well, this could be a revolutionary step in the treatment for obesity....