Brown Fat Cells Could Help Treat Diabetes

A new study by a researcher working with the University of Utah School of Medicine not only turns conventional metabolic wisdom on its head, but may also lead to a new option for treating and even preventing type 2 diabetes. Diabetes has become an established epidemic across the planet, with new diagnoses occurring every single day in growing numbers; while technology has made it possible to increase quality and length of life for those with the condition, it comes with the need for constant monitoring and often a lifelong dependence on medications. These two factors result in diabetics constantly seeking the most cost-effective options for products such as freestyle test strips, true test blood glucose test strips, and other supplies for diabetes such as diabetes log books and diabetes coolers to store food and medicine.

The researcher at the center of the discovery is Amit N. Patel, the director of Clinical Regenerative Medicine and Tissue Engineering at the University of Utah School of Medicine. Patel explained that while researchers have known about the metabolic activity of brown or beige fat in the body, it has typically been thought of as a quality that only the young possessed. Particularly in infants, large deposits of brown fat in the body make it possible to maintain body temperatures and put consumed calories to good use. Adults have an abundance of what is known as white fat cells in their bodies; while white fat cells are needed as fuel reserves, they are largely metabolically inert. Also, greater accumulations of this kind of fat can lead to cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, and increased risk of diabetes. It has been thought until recently that adults lost all brown fat reserves as they matured; however, according to Patel’s research, this is not actually the case. The research could have huge implications for millions of diabetics worldwide, who would very much like to cut down on the frequency with which they purchase needed diabetic accessories like free style test strips, diabetes log books, storage options for food and medicine, and other supplies for diabetes.

Patel and his research team discovered brown fat stem cells in the bodies of adults as old as 84—well beyond the age that even optimistic scientists believed the body produced brown fat. Patel says, “The unique identification of human brown fat stem cells in the chest of patients aged from 28 to 84 years is profound. We were able to isolate the human stem cells, culture and grow them, and implant them into a pre-human model which has demonstrated positive effects on glucose levels.” The discovery may lead to a variety of new treatments ranging from identifying new drugs that could stimulate brown fat production in the body, or potentially even implanting brown fat stem cells directly into patients. While it is not yet possible for diabetics to discard their freestyle test strips, their diabetes log books, true test blood glucose test strips or other supplies for diabetes, this research may yet change the lives of many diabetics looking for a simpler route to good health.

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