A new fat cell discovered during a study by the University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute could explain the connection between quitting smoking and weight gain. Thermogenic or “beige” fat had been previously recognized by Jun Wu, research assistant professor at LSI and senior author of the study. These fat cells burn energy whenever the body produces heat. Learn about this study, which was published in the journal Nature Medicine, as part of your weight loss education.
Findings Could Help Obese Persons Or Those With Metabolic Issues
The study highlighted CHRNA2 (cholinergic receptor nicotinic alpha 2), a type of molecule in beige fat found in humans and mice. The molecule a protein that assists with thermogenesis and also helps regulate nicotine in the brain and suppresses the appetite.
“It is really cool to discover a selective pathway for beige fat, a new cell-type - and even more exciting that this is conserved in humans,” Wu said. “Beige fat is very important in regulating whole-body metabolic health.
“Our results in mice show that if you lose even one aspect of this regulation - not the whole cell function, but just one part of its function - you will have a compromised response to metabolic challenges.”
Can Improve Treatments
Wu emphasizes that this discovery is not meant to encourage people to smoke, but could help treatments for obese individuals.
“This pathway is important from a basic research standpoint, but it also has relevance for metabolic and human health research,” she said. “The more we can narrow down a precise pathway for activating beige fat, the more likely we are to find an effective therapy for metabolic health that does not carry harmful side effects."