The Good and the Bad

Monica Daubon

You have probably heard of the saying “In with the good, out with the bad!” Researchers at the Harvard Stem Cell institute are doing just that; they are turning bad fat into good fat.

For people wanting to lose weight, all fat is considered bad fat. This is not the case. There are two types of fat: white fat, or bad fat, which is responsible for the development of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and related conditions such as heart disease. Brown fat, or good fat, has shown in mice to be responsible for lowering triglyceride levels, reducing the insulin resistance associated with type 2 diabetes, and even burn white fat. So, Cowan, an associate professor in Harvard’s Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology, and his group discovered two molecules that convert fat stem cells into brown-like fat cells. Fat stem cells would normally convert unused calories into white fat, but, by changing the fat stem cells into brown-like fat cells. These brown-like fat cells would burn off extra energy and reduce white fat cells.

These scientists have come up with medicine that when administered, would encourage the development of brown fat cells and reduce the amount of white fat cells. In result, type 2 diabetes could be prevented better. Although this medication would cut down on obesity and associated diseases, it would not provide all the benefits of exercising. Cowan said, “I wanted to use stem cell-derived fat for this purpose and to understand aspects of type 2 diabetes and obesity, which my lab still does.”

Although very close to a definite finding, verifying consistent, healthy and productive results takes a long time. However, the prospect for a medication that allows your body to “fix” itself is in high hopes.